Following an alarming video posted to Facebook late Saturday night, Mobile Baykeeper has done what they do best: investigate potential pollution. Executive Director Casi Callaway received the video on Sunday and called Fairhope Utilities to report a potential sewage spill. On Monday, Program Director Cade Kistler, Program Coordinator Meredith Diskin, and AmeriCorps Patrol member Sarah Asher went out to investigate. Today they were able to read the water samples they took, which all showed bacteria levels below the EPA threshold. The identification of the substance remains unclear.
Mobile Baykeeper has once again discovered ongoing violations by Daphne Utilities. With Daphne Utilities releasing nearly three million gallons of partially treated sewage every day in January, the 4000% violation of legally allowable bacteria levels amounts to approximately 4.6 trillion colonies of bacteria above the legal limit being released into Mobile Bay during the month.
Significant problems have plagued oyster harvesting in Portersville Bay for years and water quality remains a major issue in the area. ADEM now has the opportunity to solve many of the problems facing Portersville Bay and its water quality issues affecting oyster harvesting. This can only take place if ADEM works with other agencies, local businesses – especially the seafood industry and aquaculture – and local citizens and includes all relevant studies and data in the permitting process.
The Bayou La Batre sewer plant NPDES permit is being reissued by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM). The public can comment on this permit until Friday 11/10.
Mobile Baykeeper is writing comments centered around one main idea; the permit needs to be protective of oyster farming!
We encourage you to submit your own comments about the permit to ADEM.
Thanks to the amazing response from the community and comments by Mobile Baykeeper the project was modified. The sewer line that is now in place was "hung" from the County Road 32 bridge, where a break or spill would be obvious and quickly fixed, a WIN for clean water and Fish River community members! This victory is clear proof that YOU can affect change!
For Immediate Release: April 21, 2017
Executive Director and Baykeeper
(251) 433-4229; firstname.lastname@example.org
Black Warrior Riverkeeper
(205) 249-4743; email@example.com
Water Protection Groups’ Statewide Petition Pushed for Better Process to Warn Public of Dangers
Montgomery, AL— Today, Alabama’s Environmental Management Commission (“EMC”) voted to deny a statewide petition filed by nine water protection groups to initiate rulemaking to require better public notification of sewage spills and overflows. In doing so, the EMC announced plans to study the issue and consider rulemaking at a later date to improve public notification of sewage spills.
“We are disappointed that the EMC did not accept our petition and move immediately to create rules that would secure the public’s right to know when and where sewer spills occur.” Casi Callaway, Executive Director & Baykeeper for Mobile Baykeeper stated. “The fact that they agree better notification is needed is still a win for public health and families. We look forward to working with ADEM and sewage treatment facility operators to develop robust notification procedures that enable our families to make informed decisions about where to swim, fish and play in our area waterways and allow them to protect their health.”
Alabama Rivers Alliance, Black Warrior Riverkeeper, Cahaba Riverkeeper, Choctawhatchee Riverkeeper, Coosa Riverkeeper, Friends of Hurricane Creek, Little River Waterkeeper, Mobile Baykeeper, and Tennessee Riverkeeper submitted the petition, which was publicly supported by dozens of other conservation and recreation groups
Recent high profile events, like a major sewage overflow in Northport which put up to 4,000,000 gallons of sewage into the Black Warrior River right before the busy July 4, 2016 weekend, highlighted this pressing problem and prompted the petition. Public concern has grown significantly in recent weeks with widespread media coverage of the petition as well as an interactive map the groups released showing 2016 sewage spills. In only two weeks that online map has been viewed over 32,000 times.
Although wastewater treatment plants are required by Alabama law to “immediately” notify the public of sewage spills, presently there are no regulations which specify a time, plan or even a bare minimum level of notification.
According to Black Warrior Riverkeeper Staff Attorney Eva Dillard, “The objective of the petition was to ensure a uniform, consistent minimum standard of sewage spill notification across the State, to reach the maximum number of people possible. We are disappointed that the EMC did not accept the petition and begin rulemaking immediately, but glad they plan to address this important public health and safety issue. We look forward to working with them and other stakeholders to fix public notification in Alabama. ”
For a copy of the petition, click here.
To see the 2016 interactive sewage spill map to check out where spills occur in your community, click here.
To see a map of sewer spills occurring in Mobile and Baldwin counties, click here.
For a high resolution photograph of a recent sewage spill on Bolton Branch, click here.
Baldwin County Sewer Service is proposing to put a sewage line under the Fish River, a river utilized by many community members to recreate and which ultimately flows into Weeks Bay. Mobile Baykeeper and our members have raised significant concerns with this project. Allowing a sewage line under Fish River, would create the potential for a massive sewage spill. Read more to find out how YOU can get involved.
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.
If the two sides can come to an agreement this will be a WIN for residents living along Fish River, citizens of Alabama who enjoy fishing, boating, and swimming in the Fish River and Weeks Bay, and the unbelievably beautiful local environment. If not, the sewage line under the river will be a permanently looming threat to citizens, the River, and Weeks Bay.