News | March 9, 2016

SELC, Coosa Riverkeeper push for stronger wastewater protections for Alabama’s Logan Martin Lake

SELC and Coosa Riverkeeper are urging officials in Pell City, Alabama to reconsider plans to increase the levels of E.coli discharged from the city’s wastewater treatment facility into Logan Martin Lake. Pell City has proposed to raise the amount of E. coli to eight times the current daily limits and four times the current monthly limits.

Some strands of E. coli can cause diarrhea, urinary tract infections, respiratory illness and pneumonia, and other illnesses. In addition, E. coli is an indicator of fecal contamination, which often occurs with pathogens. Children are particularly vulnerable to illness from freshwater pathogens and increasing the allowable levels of the bacteria in Logan Martin Lake, a popular spot for swimming, fishing, skiing, and paddling, would pose serious public health risks.

After a series of past violations from the facility, Pell City requested that ADEM increase the E. coli limits in the draft discharge permit for the city’s Dye Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. These violations would not have had to be reported if the new proposed limits were in effect.

Currently, the proposed permit is open to public comment until March 11th. SELC, Coosa Riverkeeper, and other citizens have requested the comment period be extended an additional 30 days and a public hearing be held in Pell City. ADEM has denied the request for an extension of the comment period and has not yet decided if it will grant a public hearing.

“Allowing higher amounts of E. coli to be dumped into Logan Martin Lake is a threat to the health and wellbeing of the community,” said Staff Riverkeeper Frank Chitwood. “We ask that ADEM and Pell City decrease the allowable level of E. coli within the permit, and provide the opportunity for a public hearing so that citizens can fully understand what’s at stake.”

“Establishing limits on bacteria is intended to protect the public, especially children,” said SELC Staff Attorney Sarah Stokes. “It’s imperative this permit require that E.coli is properly treated at the wastewater treatment plant, rather than allowing for it to be dumped into the lake in such high concentrations.”

Update: Pell City has decided to withdraw the proposed change to its wastewater discharge permit, and will continue to operate at its currently permitted levels.

Read more about this development: Advocates hail decision by Pell City to withdraw wastewater plant permit changes:

Click here for ADEM’s warning letter concerning violations at the Pell City wastewater treatment plant, located along Dye Creek.