When the Alabama Department of Public Health notified the public about a sewage spill from the Town of Loxley on Monday, Mobile Baykeeper’s Program Director Cade Kistler grabbed his gear and headed out to Fish River. Kistler took samples from four locations along Fish River: County Rd 64 just down from the Loxley discharge, Highway 104, Bohemian Park (County Rd. 48), and County Rd 32. This evening Mobile Baykeeper staff were able to read the results, which showed E. coli levels of 262 MPN/100mL (most probable number of bacteria in 100mL of water) at County Rd 64, 160 MPN/100mL at Highway 104, 170 MPN/100mL at Bohemian Park, and 134 MPN/100mL at County Rd 32. The EPA E. coli threshold for swimming is 235 MPN/100mL. While these results are near, and in one case just exceeding, the EPA threshold it’s important to note they are similar to the average E. coli levels (193 MPN/100mL) Mobile Baykeeper’s S.W.I.M. sampling has found in Fish River at Bohemian Park on days without reported sewage releases or spills.
As our time as AmeriCorps Patrol and Monitoring Members is coming to a close, we wanted to reflect back on our amazing nine months with Mobile Baykeeper and give you all a little insight into what we have accomplished and everything we have learned along the way.
Earlier this week, as most folks hunkered down in an attempt to stay dry, the Mobile Baykeeper team loaded up sampling equipment and our drone, and headed out into a storm to protect Mobile Bay. Two staff members covered a collective distance of nearly 100 wet miles, climbing in and out of steep gullies and muddy creeks at 11 locations. For six rainy hours, we traversed both Mobile and Baldwin Counties, inspecting construction sites.
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.
The Mobile District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, recently announced that it will extend the comment period an additional 30 days for the Mobile Harbor Integrated Final General Evaluation Report (GRR) with Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS), the ship channel environmental impact study. The agency comment period closing date is now extended to Thursday, July 18, 2019.
Alabama Power currently plans to cap-in-place all their coal ash pits statewide. We at Mobile Baykeeper maintain that this is not an effective solution - and now we have Alabama Power’s own reports, as well as a maximum fine from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM), to back us up.
Mobile Baykeeper started Swim Where It’s Monitored (SWIM), a program through which local communities can sponsor bacteriological monitoring at sites of their choosing. Once a week during warmer (swim season) months, and once a month during winter, the Baykeeper AmeriCorps Patrol Team collects water quality data at each of these sponsored sites.
Today marks the 9-year anniversary of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, when over 200 million gallons of oil surged through the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days. The State of Alabama released an excellent progress report last year noting dollars spent on restoration, projects moving forward, data being collected, and prospects for the future. The more challenging part to explain is what it took to get here.