New Tools to Alert You of Sewage Spills

Above: Sewage spills from a manhole into Bolton Branch in Mobile.

Above: Sewage spills from a manhole into Bolton Branch in Mobile.

In March, Mobile Baykeeper and eight other groups petitioned the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) to improve notification of sewage spills so that you can protect the health of your family.

Thanks to those who took action and wrote letters demanding better public notification of sewer spills, ADEM has made two new tools available to the public that begin to help address the issue of notification: 

 

1. Map of Recent Sewer Spills

This map is similar to the Sewage Spill Explorer (created by Mobile Baykeeper staff in 2016), but lacks important functionalities such as the ability to filter the map based on the specific river or creek impacted, as well as the utility responsible for the spill. The map created by ADEM gives a visual representation of sewer spills that have occurred in the last 10 days throughout the state.

2. Opt-in email notification of spills

Utilities are required to report a detected spill to ADEM within 24 hours. For utilities who report spills electronically, the report will be uploaded into ADEM’s server and anyone who has opted in to their notification system will receive an email alert within 15 minutes.

An example of how to sign up to receive emails when sewer spills occur in your county.

An example of how to sign up to receive emails when sewer spills occur in your county.

Follow the steps below to sign up to get emails when sewer spills occur.

  1. Follow the link to sign up for email alerts of sewer spills.

  2. Check the last box labeled “Sanitary Sewer Overflows” under the header “I would like to be notified when:”
  3. Select the counties where you live, fish, and swim.

  4. Click “Submit”!

 

 

Although we applaud ADEM for working towards better notification, the creation of these tools does NOT resolve the problem with inadequate notification of sewer spills. 


What Else Needs to be Done?

More tailored notification based on location - The current system notifies subscribers every time a sewer spill happens somewhere in your county. We want citizens to receive alerts only to nearby spills that could directly impact their health. 

Direct notification from Utilities - We have asked ADEM to require utilities to have their own opt-in email or text system so citizens can receive reports they care most about. 

More inclusive notification - The current alert system only works for those citizens who have access to email. Many individuals impacted by sewer spills have limited or no email access.

A sign warns citizens after a sanitary sewer overflow in Jacksonville, Fl.

A sign warns citizens after a sanitary sewer overflow in Jacksonville, Fl.

Required signage - We have asked ADEM to require utilities to post signage alerting the public of a spill at downstream areas such as fishing piers, boat launches, parks, and at a pre-designated public location in the community. Signage, along with direct notification to local media outlets, will better inform citizens when their health is affected by sewer spills. 

Note: ADEM is currently studying the problems with public notification presented by the petition.  They will be conducting stakeholder meetings regarding this issue in the coming months in an effort to find workable solutions for to ensure that you are aware of when sewer spills occur and are able to protect your health!  


What can you do?

Casi Callaway, Executive Director and Mobile Baykeeper, test for bacteria after a sewage spill in Fly Creek.

Casi Callaway, Executive Director and Mobile Baykeeper, test for bacteria after a sewage spill in Fly Creek.


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