Mobile Baykeeper Files Lawsuit Against Daphne Utilities for Clean Water Act Violations

In the above photo, sludge can be seen entirely covering Daphne Utilities' clarifier. This is a serious failure of the treatment system at the plant and is allowing sewage be discharged into Blakeley River and Mobile Bay with very little treatment.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 19, 2017

Contact: J. Patrick Courtney, III, Attorney

Jpc3law@aol.com. 251-694-1001.


Mobile Baykeeper files lawsuit against Daphne Utilities for Violations under Clean Water Act

(Mobile, Ala.) - Mobile Baykeeper filed to intervene in the State of Alabama’s lawsuit against Utilities Board of Daphne (“Daphne Utilities”) in Circuit Court on Tuesday, December 19, 2017 for numerous violations of the Clean Water Act and the Alabama Water Pollution Control Act. The utility has failed to comply with its permit by falsely reporting, under-reporting, or failing to report sewer spill data, as well as allowing significant amounts of raw or partially treated sewage to spill into nearby creeks, rivers, and bays.

The aftermath of an underreported shown spill at Daphne Utilities.

Mobile Baykeeper reviewed video and photographic evidence, conducted multiple interviews, reviewed available spill data, analyzed aerial surveys, and conducted field research as part of its investigation into issues at Daphne Utilities. Current and former Daphne Utilities employees have reached out to Mobile Baykeeper staff to express their concerns and provide information on conditions of the facility. One employee stated that Daphne Utilities has been discharging sewage with bacteria levels “too numerous to count” into local waterways while another described a sewer spill greater than 500,000 gallons as “the worst I had seen in my 20-year career.”

“Sewer spills alone are terrible, but denying the public the opportunity to protect themselves is completely unacceptable” said Casi (kc) Callaway, Mobile Baykeeper Executive Director & Baykeeper. “Upper management at Daphne Utilities has knowingly reported false sewer spill data, endangering our health and our ability to enjoy swimming and fishing in Coastal Alabama’s waterways. We will not let them jeopardize the health and safety of our community any longer.”

In the above photo, sewage sludge can be seen floating on D'Olive Creek.

One of the most egregious violations occurred on August 10, 2017, when more than one million gallons of raw sewage spilled from the treatment plant into D’Olive Creek. The raw sewage gushed unsupervised for more than 13 hours at a flow rate of more than 100,000 gallons per hour. Despite the  potential threat to public health, Daphne Utilities, in an effort to hide the spill from the community, the state environmental agency, and its board, reported the spill as“zero gallons” reaching waterways.  

A summary of Mobile Baykeeper’s findings, outlined in depth in the attached investigation report, include: 1) Reporting failures, 2) System malfunctions, 3) Corrupt management, 4) Exceeding pollution limits, and 5) Public notification failure. Baykeeper’s investigation report found the above issues frequently repeated most likely due to unacceptable behavior of Daphne Utilities top management. According to J. Patrick Courtney, attorney for Mobile Baykeeper, fraudulent reporting has likely been occurring for much longer due to an entrenched company culture. “This type of leadership demonstrates a complete disregard for the health and safety of those who live in and around D’Olive Creek and Mobile Bay.”

In the photo above Daphne Utilities final effluent (water being released into Mobile Bay and Blakeley River) can be seen. This is a failure in the treatment system at Daphne Utilities threatening the health of all those swimming, fishing, and enjoying Mobile Bay.

Courtney and Mobile Baykeeper request the Court to require Daphne Utilities to take immediate steps to rectify the causes of the violations, address management officials responsible for these violations and establish strong employee accountability practices and whistleblower protections, invest in necessary infrastructure repairs and upgrades to eliminate future spills, and establish an accurate and immediate public notification process following additional overflows.

“As the City of Daphne grows and flourishes, Daphne Utilities is neglecting its responsibility to protect public health and our natural resources. Mobile Baykeeper, our members and Coastal Alabama residents deserve better and will fight to ensure honest reporting methods and the elimination of sewer spills.”


Background

Mobile Baykeeper filed this lawsuit following a 60-day notice of intent (NOI) to sue on September 19, 2017. Since filing the NOI, Baykeeper has discovered additional evidence of illegal conduct by Daphne Utilities. The State of Alabama and Alabama Department of Environmental Management filed suit in the Court of Alabama on November 22, 2017.  


Mobile Baykeeper Investigative Report

(Click Here to Download)


Daphne Utilities Photos


Motion to Intervene


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