Can you spot the two boys in the picture?
Imagine a hot muggy Alabama summer day. Your sons are playing at the local “swimming hole.” Everything is normal. Your boys are loving the fresh clean water in a creek where hundreds, if not thousands of children in your community go swimming to cool off all summer long. Fun times.
You snap a quick picture of the boys hiding in the midst of falling water along a dam on the creek.
Now, imagine later in the day you learn that their health was in danger. Four thousand gallons of sewage was spilled into the creek upstream from where your boys were swimming. Virtually nothing was done to notify people, including your children.
That’s not a typo. 4000 gallons of sewage. No warnings. No signs. No use of social media, radio, TV or even a newspaper article.
Not possible? Below is an excerpt of the story on page 10 of the petition submitted by nine water protection groups to the Alabama Environmental Management Commission requesting the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) start developing rules to better notify the public about sewage spills.
“For example, on July 22, 2015, more than 4,000 gallons of sewage overflowed from the Pelham Wastewater Treatment Plant and into Buck Creek, a 17.3-mile-long tributary of the Cahaba River that is a popular destination for swimming and recreation Other than a Pelham plant manager who went out and asked a few children to get out of the creek at Helena’s Amphitheater Park, a popular swimming site, there was no public notification of the spill to keep residents from swimming, according to David Butler, Cahaba Riverkeeper. Butler, with Dr. Shaun Crawford, was already near the site of the spill performing routine water testing.
Crawford’s two children unknowingly swam nearby. As a result of the spill, the test results showed “[heavy, heavy contamination] … You would absolutely not want to be in that water,” according to Butler.
Read the entire 40+page petition – here
This week, the nine water protection groups also released an interactive map showing all of the sewage spills that were reported to ADEM during the 2016 calendar year. The numbers were staggering.
1271 spills in 2016
“Alabamians regularly swim, fish, paddle, and recreate in streams, rivers, and lakes. We deserve to be notified when sewage is spilled in our communities and in our water, so we can keep our family and friends healthy and safe. It is high time for adequate regulations in Alabama, and full enforcement if they are not followed.”