Interactive Map Released Highlighting Sewage Spills Across Alabama
Above: map highlights all sewer spills reported to Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) during the 2016 calendar year. Click on the image to learn more about each location.
In honor of Rivers of Alabama Day, nine water protection groups from across the state released an interactive map highlighting sewage spills that occurred last year throughout the state of Alabama. Here are 5 things you need to know about it:
1. What is the purpose of the map?
The map was developed to better educate the public and reinforce the importance of better notification of sewage spills. Mobile Baykeeper program staff developed something similar last year, the Sewage Spill Explorer, specifically targeting sewage spills in Coastal Alabama. This map builds on that effort but highlights spills across the entire estate.
2. What data does the map reveal?
The data from the map shows that between 28.8 million - 42.6 million gallons of sewage overflows were reported in 2016, not including the 9% of spills reported that did not include a volume estimate. However, the true number of spills that actually occurred is far higher than the map indicates as there were many spills that were reported with incomplete data or not reported at all.
3. Which groups are involved?
We collaborated with eight other organizations throughout the state to develop the map: Alabama Rivers Alliance, Black Warrior Riverkeeper, Cahaba Riverkeeper, Choctawhatchee Riverkeeper, Coosa Riverkeeper, Friends of Hurricane Creek, Little River Waterkeeper, and Tennessee Riverkeeper.
4. Why does this matter?
We firmly believe there should be a better notification system so our citizens will be properly notified when a spill occurs nearby that jeopardizes their health. Because of this, we recently partnered with all eight groups listed above to submit the sewage right to know petition to Alabama's Environmental Management Commission (EMC).
The goal of this petition is to adopt regulations that specify exactly how sewage treatment facilities must notify the public when raw sewage is spilled. Currently, wastewater treatment facilities are only required by law to notify the public "immediately" after sewage spills, but no regulations exist specifying how they do this.
5. What's the next step?
On April 21, the EMC will vote whether or note to approve the petition we recently submitted. Stay tuned for updates on this decision.