Tag: water pollution
At about 10:30 a.m. on a recent Monday in Walker County, Martha Salomaa parks her white pick-up truck, walks to the edge of a parking lot and points to the river below, the Mulberry Fork.
“And so the plant, it’s in Hanceville, which is 28 to 30 miles upstream from here,” she says.
Salomaa is referring to the Tyson Foods Inc. chicken rendering plant. That’s where an estimated 220,000 gallons of partially treated wastewater emptied into this section of the Black Warrior River on June 6th.
“So by June 10th, you could see hundreds of fish, like floating by, either dead or dying,” Salomaa says.
According to state officials, it was Alabama’s largest fish kill in recent years. And Salomaa, who is president of the Walker County conservation group Sipsey Heritage Commission (SHC), said the spill didn’t just kill fish, it contaminated the river with high levels of bacteria. In the days following the incident, SHC and the Black Warrior Riverkeeper found unsafe levels of E. coli almost 30 miles downstream from the site of the spill.
As a result, the Sipsey Heritage Commission cancelled its annual kayak race, scheduled for mid-June, and Salomaa said residents avoided the water for several weeks.
“You know, like, this river is a way of life,” Salomaa said. “You can’t, you just cannot put a price on that.”
But state agencies are tasked with putting a price on it. Read more.
The acid coal mine drainage at Maxine Mine on the Locust Fork is ugly, with discordant orange, yellow, red and purple hues that contrast with verdant spring growth on adjacent riverbanks and bluffs.
Nearby residents of this Black Warrior River tributary in north Jefferson County, close to the community of Praco on Flat Top Road, call the abandoned mine “a mess,” a place devoid of fish and most other aquatic life and given a wide berth by boaters and swimmers. It’s where algae blooms proliferate in a slough rife with sediment washing from the mountain of mine waste that has accumulated since the early 1950s.
And it’s a site that made Alabama history May 7 when a federal judge ruled that its owner, Drummond Company, was in violation of the U.S. Clean Water Act for continuously polluting the Locust Fork with acid drainage. In a suit brought by nonprofit Black Warrior Riverkeeper, U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon issued a summary judgment against Drummond, dismissing the coal company’s assertion that the law does not apply to pollution from waste after mine operations ended.
It was the first time the federal act was used to successfully sue the owner of an abandoned mine for polluting an Alabama waterway. Read more.
The River ‘Flows Through My Veins:’ Voices From the Locust Fork Tributary of the Black Warrior River
People who live on the Locust Fork near the Maxine mine say runoff from that long-closed site has ruined their boating and fishing, endangered their livelihoods and damaged their enjoyment of their homes.
Its for those people and many others who visit the river that the mine site needs to be cleaned up, said Black Warrior Riverkeeper staff attorney Eva Dillard.
“People live along the Locust Fork, they know about this site and worry about it every time they boat or fish on the river. They have to think about what that site generates and puts into the river, how it might affect their lives and their property values.”
In court documents, several people living along or near the Locust Fork registered objections to the pollution of the river from Maxine Mine. Here are some of their comments. Read more.