Federal court rules SELC, partner can proceed with Oxford wastewater violations claims

Unusual foam floats down Alabama's Choccolocco Creek downstream from the Oxford wastewater treatment plant where numerous violations have been documented over decades. (© Frank Chitwood/CoosaRiverkeeper)

In good news for clean water, a federal court in Alabama has ruled that SELC and Coosa Riverkeeper can proceed with claims against the Oxford Tull C. Allen Wastewater Treatment Plant east of Birmingham.

In response to a motion to dismiss, filed by the Oxford Water Works and Sewer Board, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama rejected arguments that the claims were barred, and ruled that the conservation groups could move forward with claims pertaining to the Oxford Plant’s discharge of high levels of E.coli, chlorine, and unpermitted discharges of formaldehyde into Choccolocco Creek.

“We are very pleased with the Court’s ruling, which underscores the gravity of the violations at the Oxford Plant—these are not small, insignificant issues caused by an occasional mistake or oversight,” said SELC Attorney Sarah Stokes. “After 25 years of violations at the Tull C. Allen Wastewater Treatment Plant, we cannot afford to allow history to repeat itself at the expense of clean water for the Oxford community.”

“It is unacceptable for the Oxford Plant to shirk its responsibilities and put the burden of unchecked pollution on its citizens,” said Coosa Riverkeeper Frank Chitwood. “Clean water is especially critical during this time of year when so many families and visitors view Choccolocco Creek as a destination spot for swimming, tubing, paddling and fishing. No one should have to worry about whether they might get sick from simply enjoying this special waterway.”

Sampling results taken by Coosa Riverkeeper have shown that the Oxford Plant has discharged extremely high concentrations of E. coli, some results showing levels hundreds of times greater than the permit allows. Coosa Riverkeeper monitors Choccolocco Creek approximately one mile downstream of the Oxford Plant for its popular Swim Guide program, and has issued water quality alerts for E.coli in the area for four out of the past nine weeks.

The Oxford Plant has also discharged high levels of chlorine, which can harm fish and other wildlife, and has released unpermitted discharges of formaldehyde, potentially from Kronospan, a nearby fiberboard plant.

Read the court’s ruling on the motion to dismiss.

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