Mark Martin, Attorney
Mark Martin began practicing law in 1981 after graduating from Samford University's Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, Alabama. Over the course of his 25 year career Mark has worked on a diverse array of legal issues, ranging from criminal defense to protecting Alabama's rivers and creeks. Mark first became involved with environmental issues seven years ago when he began working with Black Warrior Riverkeeper, a group dedicated to the protection and restoration of Alabama's Black Warrior River. An avid kayaker, Mark feels very strongly about preserving the quality and integrity of his state's waterways.
Mark's work with the Sierra Club began about three years ago when he teamed up with the Club's Alabama Chapter to remedy chronic pollution problems at the Whitaker Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO). The Sierra Club and local residents eventually filed a federal lawsuit against the Whitaker CAFO for illegally dumping hog waste into Crow Creek, a tributary of the Tennessee River.
Despite being matched up against a large team of Whitaker corporate attorneys, Mark was able to successfully negotiate a settlement that forces Whitaker to stop illegally dumping hog waste into Alabama waterways, to take measures to reduce odor and prevent polluted runoff, and to protect the ecosystem around the hog factory. Peggie Griffin, a Sierra Club Alabama staffer who worked closely with Mark on the case, was truly impressed by Mark's drive and dedication. Peggie emphasized that, "during the lengthy and intense negotiation process, Mark conferred with Club staff every step of the way. We feel that he did an excellent job handling the case and reaching an outcome that will really cut back on pollution and help our community."
Mark emphasized that his victory against Whitaker would not have been possible without the help of dedicated Sierra Club volunteers and staff. The majority of evidence against the Whitaker CAFO was gathered by volunteers such as Willard Jones, who lives next door to the Whitaker hog factory. Willard noted what a worthwhile experience it was to work with Mark, stating that "as a plaintiff, I was extremely impressed with Mark's performance."
Willard and other Sierra Club Water Sentinels diligently collected water samples downstream from the Whitaker CAFO. Their samples, which showed extremely elevated levels of E.Coli and other harmful bacteria, served as evidence that the Whitaker CAFO was discharging harmful waste in violation of the Clean Water Act. This case marks the first time that Club volunteer data was used as the primary evidence in a lawsuit against a Clean Water Act violator.
On August 14, 2006 the judge signed the Sierra Club v. Whitaker CAFO “consent decree” settlement, marking the victorious end to a long campaign by the Club and local residents to clean up the Whitaker hog factory. Mark believes that the settlement sends a powerful message to other CAFO's in Alabama and local communities who suffer the brunt of the serious pollution problems caused by these animal factories: "The outcome of this case serves the dual function of showing CAFO's that they are not above the rules and showing citizens how powerful their activism can be." We couldn't agree more.