20 Years Together Working for Clean Water

2018 has been a whirlwind for myself and Mobile Baykeeper. . The full weight of celebrating 20 years in one place with one organization was a constant presence bringing both pride and worries – Have we done enough? Is there more to do? Are we doing it right? Are we making a real difference? Ever the optimist, I have to admit to thinking we could have clean water and a healthy Mobile Bay before Year 20 arrived!

 While we’re not nearly finished, we are truly making a difference.

 Our reach has grown every year and we are making a deeper impact through our education and outreach opportunities. Environmental agencies are responding with major grants, business and industries continue to reach out to us to improve their projects before building; our events and membership are growing with people uniting to both invest in Mobile Bay and celebrate all that we love across our community – swimming, fishing, hunting, working and playing in and around our area’s more than 5,000 miles of coastlines.

Here are a few of the early numbers:

1)     The Mobile Baykeeper Team grew to 17 this year with our AmeriCorps Program;

2)     We reached 32 schools, gave 137 presentations to 4,870 students;

3)     We responded to 89 community concerns with Baykeeper resolving 15 of them;

4)     We collected and processed more than 600 water quality samples;

5)     1,105 people attended our clean ups; and

6)     1,595 people volunteered at our events, and 4,175 showed up to support and enjoy our events.

On the whole, our message of clean water, clean air and healthy communities is reaching people on both sides of the Bay from the Gulf to the Delta and statewide. When people hear the message and understand the challenges, they tend to get engaged in the work of protecting what we all love so much. We still have so much work to do. Coal Ash, sewage spills, new growth and development projects require our attention and we need you actively engaged to ensure clean water.

Reflecting over these 20 years, I know now how blessed I was to be at the right place at the right time with the right skills and knowledge to lead Mobile Baykeeper to become our community’s voice for the Mobile Bay Watershed and our coastal communities. With the exception of the husband and the not so baby boy, Baykeeper was the easiest decision I’ve ever made.

Mobile Baykeeper has succeeded all these years, however, because of your willingness to get involved when asked, write a check when it was needed, and speak up and get engaged on the issues that mean the most to you. We will continue to make a difference because of your continued involvement and investment in our work.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be a part of your vision for our community.

Your tax-deductible year-end contribution helps us start our year strong, knowing we’re headed in the right direction. Give today to our Patrol and Protect Fund enabling us to dedicate more time to our patrol work and utilize the best tools and resources to ensure we swim, fish, and play in clean water.

Here are links to a few highlights of the year:

A 2016 sewage spill occurs at Daphne Utilitiess wastewater treatment plant.

1)    Daphne Utilities sewage spill lawsuit:

  • In summer of 2017 numerous whistleblowers contacted Mobile Baykeeper to inform us of a pattern of hiding and underreporting sewage spills at Daphne Utilities. After conducting our own investigation for 4 months we filed a lawsuit at the close of 2018 and released a in-depth investigative report. The investigation which included review of video and photographic evidence, multiple interviews, spill data analysis, aerial surveys, and waster sampling found serious issues with reporting of sewage spills and major problems with sewage treatment at Daphne Utilities. During 2018 we found more issues and have continued to work to make sure the people of Daphne and the Eastern Shore can be confident in Daphne Utilities’ sewage spill reporting. We’ve also worked diligently to ensure that the utility performs acceptable treatment of the sewage that flows through their treatment plant to protect clean water in Mobile Bay. The lawsuit is ongoing and we expect to have good news to share in 2019. 

Plant Barry’s Coal Ash Pond is shown here on a high water day in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta.

Plant Barry’s Coal Ash Pond is shown here on a high water day in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta.

2)    Alabama Power’s Coal Ash Pond:

  • For those of you unfamiliar, coal ash is the toxic waste that remains after coal is burned and contains toxic chemicals such as arsenic, mercury, chromium, and lead. Just north of Mobile, more than 21 million tons of this toxic material sits in a 600-acre unlined pond at Alabama Power’s Barry Steam Plant - in the heart of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta.

  • After over three years of research, sampling, and meetings we released a report showing major issues with Alabama Power’s Plant Barry coal ash pond. Chief amongst the issues we found are the pond’s known groundwater pollution issues, potential for the pond to collapse, and ill-advised location in the hurricane prone Delta.

  • This year our work caused numerous publications, from AL.com to the Lagniappe, to cover the issue and examine major problems with Alabama Power’s current plans to close in place.

  • We know Alabama Power is invested in making Alabama a great place to live, work, and play. We fully expect that after examining the major deficiencies with their current plan to close the pond in place they will find a better way to close the pond – one that moves the ash out of their unlined pond and away from the Mobile River. We’ll keep working until they do.

A map from the Corps shows one proposal for the expansion of the ship channel. Map - U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

3)     Mobile Ship Channel:

  • In 2018, Mobile Baykeeper actively participated in the proposed plans to deepen and widen the Mobile Ship Channel. The Army Corps of Engineers released the draft study this summer and found an alarming conclusion of “no impacts” resulting from this major dredging project bisecting Mobile Bay. After extensive research - we submitted a comment letter indicating the study likely underestimates the impacts to our precious natural resources and lacks several important pieces of information needed to make such a determination. The Corps is currently reviewing all the comments they received to incorporate feedback into the final project plan. 

We hope you'll consider a year end donation to support these efforts and all our work for Clean Water, Clean Air, and Healthy Communities!

Thank you and Happy New Year,

Casi Callaway, Executive Director and Baykeeper