Stormwater runoff is what washes off of parking lots, roadways and rooftops when it rains. Eve Brantley, associate professor of crop, soil and environmental sciences at Auburn University, said it may sound harmless, but it has a big impact.
“I just feel like it’s the forgotten pollution,” Brantley said.
She said part of the problem is that stormwater picks up other pollutants like trash and fertilizer. The other issue is the sheer volume of runoff that is discharged into area waterways.
Cahaba Riverkeeper David Butler sees the impact on a daily basis.
“So we’re pushing so much water into the river so fast now that, you know when it rains, instead of soaking into the ground, it’s all channeled to the river,” Butler said. “So it rises really quick, falls really quick, and you get a lot more erosion like this.”
He said all along the river, large sections of the bank have collapsed, often during rainstorms. This strips away vegetation that normally acts as a buffer, leaving dirt to erode into the river and fill it with sediment. Read more.
Cahaba Riverkeeper David Butler often has to convince people that sediment can be a problem.
“You know rivers are remarkably resilient,” Butler says. “They can handle a normal amount of mud.”
But he said the amount of mud in the Cahaba is not normal. Walking along a section of the river in Hoover, Butler leans over and scoops up a handful of rocks.
“So if you see how much dirt there is in it,” he says, “there’s not a lot of space in between the rocks for bugs and mussels and snails to live.”
Butler said it is now more common to see large mounds of dirt and gravel that pile up in the middle of the river, the result of sediment pushed downstream. Over the years, he said, parts of the river and its tributaries have accumulated as much as 20 feet of extra sediment.
More scientific help is on the way for the committee charged with providing independent advice to the federal government on whether to change its air quality standards.
Local air quality expert Corey Masuca, one of the seven members of the committee, said he “is delighted” with the decision by Andrew Wheeler, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to add consultants for the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, known as CASAC.
CASAC is under a tight deadline to trudge through hundreds of new studies and advise Wheeler on potential changes in National Ambient Air Quality Standards for particulate matter and, later, for ozone. Read more.
The Environmental Protection Agency and Jefferson County’s Department of Health have settled civil rights complaints over air permits the department awarded to coke manufacturers in north Birmingham and Tarrant in recent years. But the EPA response has added to frustration over recent environmental developments in the heavily industrial part of Jones Valley, according to residents and officials at Gasp, a clean-air nonprofit group that has been involved in antipollution efforts there for most of the past decade.
“I am totally disappointed. It’s a slap in the face,” said Jimmy Smith of the Collegeville neighborhood, one of the complainants. “It makes no sense that we taxpaying citizens cannot (experience) happiness because we live in a ZIP code (35207) where toxic chemicals and metals poison our air and ground.”
Smith said the community’s relationship with the health department is broken.
“I would trust strychnine poison to not hurt my body more than I’d trust anybody at the health department now,” he said. “They are duty bound to protect citizens’ health, but it’s my experience that, from the head of it on down, they give decisions against us and for big business.”
The “informal resolution agreement” brokered by the EPA’s External Civil Rights Compliance Office instructs JCDH to enhance communication procedures and update nondiscrimination processes, but it does not include additional, targeted monitoring of air emissions and reduction in particulate matter and odors, which have been called for by the complainants. Read more.
Read BirminghamWatch’s earlier investigation:
With his job performance under a microscope, the state’s top environmental regulator has responded to criticism of his handling of a large fish kill on Warrior River tributaries and of 3M Company’s pollution of the Tennessee River.
In a five-page letter sent this month to the Alabama Environmental Management Commission, which oversees the Department of Environmental Management, ADEM Director Lance LeFleur defended the response to those and other actions.
The commission provides oversight for LeFleur’s department and has been taking public comments on his job performance through July. Read more.
ABC Coke’s hopes for renewal of its operating permit for another five years are now in the hands of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The Jefferson County Department of Health submitted a proposed draft to the EPA for the permit renewal March 1, it announced today. Read more.
Environmentalists are warning that more than 80 percent of Alabamians receive their drinking water from sources that may lose critical protections under a proposed federal rule. The Waters of the U.S. rule was published Thursday in the Federal Register.
The Business Council of Alabama and the Alabama Farmers Federation are among those hailing the proposal, which would greatly reduce the environmental permits required of landowners and developers for discharges of wastewater and runoff of stormwater.
The rule will become final following a 60-day public comment period. Submit comments via the federal rulemaking portal. Read more.
Alabama will be among the states most hit in the pocket book by changes due to global warming this century, even as it seems most Trumpian in its opposition to the issue.
The Birmingham-Hoover metro area is among the nation’s top 15 metro areas that will experience negative economic effects from increased heat and extreme weather events and other consequences.
A new county-by-county study by the Brookings Institution shows Alabama counties are among those facing the biggest long-term losses in income by the end of the 21st century. The analysis found that the top 10 states whose economy would suffer most include Alabama and eight others that voted for Trump, who has consistently downplayed or derided the idea of global warming.
In other words, people who are most exposed to climate impacts consistently vote for people who are opposed to doing much to mitigate climate change.
Adding insult to injury, a recent Department of Defense document named Reagan Operations Center in Huntsville and Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery as among the installations currently or in the future vulnerable to climate effects as it assessed “operational risks.” Flooding and damage from stronger, more frequent events such as hurricanes, health and safety effects from increased temperatures, and greater land management issues are among the risks named.
These warnings came just as congressional Democrats prepare to lay out a Green New Deal that envisions economic benefits of policies that would ameliorate the effects of global warming. Read more.
The EPA Superfund cleanup and ABC Coke’s proposed air emissions permit have dominated health concerns of residents in northern Birmingham neighborhoods for months. Now officials and residents of several neighborhoods there are attempting to form a coalition to broaden the concerns to other sources of possible pollution.
The flash point of the new effort is a scrap metal processor’s business license. The license was denied by a unanimous Birmingham City Council vote in March, but the owner successfully appealed the case in Jefferson County Circuit Court, which compelled the city to grant the license.
Catherine Evans, president of the Acipco-Finley Neighborhood Association, and City Councilman John Hilliard led a meeting Saturday of about 30 people, including officers of some other neighborhood associations, to discuss how to proceed after the court decision and how to meet concerns over respiratory illnesses and other health effects possibly related to industrial pollution throughout the largely African-American and low-income area.
Several people at the meeting called attention to the negative health effects of living in the North Birmingham community.
Gwen Webb, president of Inglenook Neighborhood Association, said, “I don’t care what side of town you live on, what organization you belong to, what neighborhood you’re in, we all are affected (by polluted air). I can tell you when I start smelling it, I cannot breathe, and pollution is injustice.” Read more.
EPA Studies Find Air Pollution Is Particularly Dangerous to Vulnerable Populations Such as People of Color and Children
Several recent studies funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency confirm that air pollution disproportionately affects the health of African Americans and others of color. Three of the studies were highlighted in the December 2018 issue of EM, The Magazine for Environmental Managers. Read more.