Breach Discovered in Fairhope Sewage Outfall Line

Breach Discovered in Fairhope Sewage Outfall Line

Thanks to the help of a number of concerned citizens, the City of Fairhope recently discovered a breach in the outfall line from the sewage treatment plant. This is alarming because the breach is allowing treated sewage to discharge approximately 475 feet from the shore into Mobile Bay in only 3-4 feet of water.

As designed and required by Fairhope’s permit, the outfall should discharge 3000 feet from shore in approximately 11 feet of water - so that the treated sewage mixes properly. The designed length of the outfall (~3000 ft.) ensures that it discharges the treated sewage in enough water that any harmful bacteria left are diluted and the effluent is flushed out of the Bay rather than ending up caught in areas close to the shore where our citizens are swimming, playing, and fishing. We are actively working with Fairhope and the citizens who helped find the break to ensure progress continues rapidly in assessing and fixing the line.

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    Above: Photo of dye leaving the break in the Fairhope sewage outfall in Mobile Bay. ( Photo by Elizabeth Tonsmeire)

Above: Photo of dye leaving the break in the Fairhope sewage outfall in Mobile Bay. (Photo by Elizabeth Tonsmeire)

Fairhope conducted an investigation by using dye injected into the outfall line (see image at right) to confirm the leak. Fairhope then had scuba divers identify the extent of the breach so they could plan for possible solutions.

How This Affects You

We want to ensure you know how the break in the outfall may affect your ability to swim, fish, and play in the Bay. Our program staff tested at the break, and at two other locations south of the break (out from the Fairhope Public Beach and at the Fairhope Pier) to assess water quality. Our testing, conducted on 5/23, found levels of bacteria above the EPA threshold for swimming (104 CFU/100mL) at all locations.

** It is important to note that this testing was conducted during rising tides and the source of high bacteria levels shown is unclear. The City of Fairhope's most recent testing of its treated sewage showed very low bacteria levels. **


Get Involved

The Fairhope City Council will vote on whether or not to hire Volkert to engineer a repair to the break this Tuesday May 29, at 6 PM. We encourage citizens to attend the meeting and let the council know why making this repair is so important. We will be testing these sites twice weekly until a repair is completed. If you would like to receive email updates on our testing and other testing conducted in the Mobile Bay area, please click here to sign up. 

If you have questions or concerns about this issue please email or call Program Director Cade Kistler at (251)-433-4229 or

Above: Mobile Baykeeper's sampling results at different sites near the outfall break.