Nine water protection groups from across the state have released an interactive map showing all of the sewage spills that were reported during 2016.

The groups developed the map to educate the public and to make the case for better public notification of these spills. The map is an easy-to-use tool which allows the public to see what spills were reported in their neighborhoods, communities and favorite recreational waterways during 2016.

A press release from Black Warrior Riverkeeper stated,

The data underlying the map indicates that between 28.8 million gallons and 46.2 million gallons of sewage overflows were reported in 2016, not including the 9% of spills reported that did not include a volume estimate.  The true number of sewage spills that occurred across Alabama in 2016 is even higher than the map indicates, as the data reported was incomplete and there were countless recurring spill locations which were not reported, as is required by law.

For over 28% of sewage spills, the operator admitted it did not verbally notify ADEM within 24 hours, also as required by regulation.  For 23% of spills, no effort was reported by operators towards notifying the public despite the fact “immediate notification” of the public is currently required by regulation.

Although wastewater treatment plants are required by Alabama law to “immediately” notify the public of sewage spills, there are no regulations which specify a time, plan or even a bare minimum level of notification—even though sanitary sewer overflows pose a substantial public health risk and environmental hazard to the citizens of Alabama.

The groups contend that citizens have a right to know when their local streams and rivers are unsafe for swimming, fishing and other recreation to protect themselves and their families from the serious consequences of sewage pollution.