D'Olive Creek Sewage Spill

An alligator floats in D'Olive Creek downstream of where the sewage spill occurred.

A lightning storm knocked out power to pumps at Daphne Utilities Wastewater Treatment Plant last Wednesday night at approximately 7:00 PM. Daphne Utilities staff explained that the plant was in the middle of an upgrade to the communications system and therefore did not alert plant staff. The outage lasted approximately 12 hours until staff arrived the following morning, during which time approximately 500,000 gallons of sewage spilled into D'Olive Creek.

The following morning Daphne Utilities staff discovered the spill, restored power to the pumps stopping the spill, and immediately contacted Mobile Baykeeper staff. Utility staff asked for assistance from Mobile Baykeeper with ensuring the public was adequately notified of the spill and monitoring water quality downstream of the sewer spill.

To address notification we immediately took a number of steps including notifying local media to ensure coverage in local newscasts, posting to social media about the spill, and monitoring the area immediately downstream of the spill for bacteria.

We suggested a number of things to Daphne Utilities to ensure that local citizens had enough information to be made aware of the spill and take appropriate steps to protect their health. These included:

·       Targeted social media post(s) in the area downstream of the spill

·       Signage describing the spill and the monitoring Mobile Baykeeper is conducting be placed on D'Olive Creek and at downstream access points (May Day Park, Bayfront Park, and Lake Forest Marina

·       Door hangers at the homes around the Marina (Yacht Club Dr and surrounding areas).

While we were disturbed and frustrated by the magnitude of the spill, we were heartened that Daphne Utilities immediately reached out to Mobile Baykeeper to ensure citizens were notified of the spill so that they could protect their health. We have spent a great deal of time working to ensure utilities engage in robust notification and are still working on this issue through our "Right to Know" Campaign. It should be noted, however, that signage was only placed at Gator Alley on D'Olive Creek and at Lake Forest Marina and the adjacent D'Olive Bay Boat Launch, not at May Day and Bayfront Park.

Results of Mobile Baykeeper testing have found levels of bacteria substantially higher than the EPA threshold for swimming of 104 CFU Enterococci/100mL in several tests. Thursday, approximately 12 hours after the spill was stopped, bacteria levels in D'Olive Creek were more than 24 times the EPA threshold for swimming.

Test results that came in this evening from Friday testing were as follows:

·       D'Olive Creek -- 31.1 CFU/100mL

·       D'Olive Bay Launch -- 7.3 CFU/100mL

·       Bayfront Park Beach -- 331.4 CFU/100mL

·       May Day Park >2420 CFU/100mL ( A significant foam and slight odor was noted during these samples as shown in the pictures to the left.)

We advise citizens to avoid swimming in the Bay in the vicinity of D'Olive Bay and Daphne until test results show safe levels of bacteria. We expect to have additional test results on Tuesday and we will update this post with those results.

At Mobile Baykeeper we work diligently to ensure that utilities are properly investing in their systems to prevent sewer overflows. This investment must be substantial and consistent. While this spill was the result of events that seemed unlikely we believe it is the utilities job to ensure that they plan for contingencies; this is what customers expect and what the public deserves. We will continue evaluating all sewage utilities in the area, considering the whole of their operations where major spills such as this are one piece of the story. When we find issues we attempt to work with utilities to find solutions. When this is unsuccessful we will utilize other methods as necessary to ensure utilities are held accountable and public health, the environment, and Mobile Bay are protected.

Have questions? Please call our office at 251-433-4229 or email Program Director Cade Kistler -- ckistler@mobilebaykeeper.org

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