ALABAMA EMC VOTING ON SEWAGE PETITION
By WVUA 23 Web Writer Marcelle Peters
Nine water protection groups collaborated on a petition and released an interactive map addressing the danger of sewage spills and lack of public notification in Alabama.
The petition was sent to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management on Rivers of Alabama Day, which is always the second Tuesday in April and asks Alabama’s Environmental Management Commission (EMC) to adopt regulations that will specify how sewage treatment facilities must notify the public when there is a raw sewage spill.
The EMC will vote on April 21 on whether to approve the petition for rulemaking filed by the groups.
The map is intended to be an easy-to-use tool which allows the public to see sewage spills reported in their neighborhoods, communities and favorite recreational waterways during 2016. It shows over 1,200 spills (28.2-46.2 million gallons total), but that doesn’t include unreported spills, recurring spills and reports without volume estimates.
For 23 percent of spills, water treatment operators admitted no effort was made to notify the public, despite the current regulation which requires “immediate notification.”
The groups contend that “citizens have a fundamental right to know when their local streams and rivers are unsafe for swimming, fishing and other recreation to protect themselves and their families from serious consequences of sewage pollution” according to a press release.
According to americanrivers.org, 3.5 million Americans get sick each year after swimming, boating, fishing or otherwise touching water they thought was safe.
“We hope the map released today will not only educate the public, but also help to make the members of the EMC aware of the severity and ubiquity of sewage spills in Alabama prior to their impending vote,” said Eva Dillard, the Black Warrior Riverkeeper staff attorney.
In 2013, the Black Warrior River was added to the top 10 List of America’s Most Endangered Rivers.