Swim Guide Underway– On May 3, we began our 5th year of gathering water quality and bacterial data from your favorite recreation places on the Cahaba and its tributaries. And, we’ll be out every week until Labor Day reporting the results on Fridays. Alabamians are once again ready to swim, fish and paddle, but the state still lacks a comprehensive system to give public notification when sewage spills occur that could affect water recreation plans. In 2017, all eight Alabama Waterkeeper organizations and Alabama Rivers Alliance filed a petition with the Environmental Management Commission (EMC), which oversees Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM). seeking improved requirements for sewage treatment facilities to tell us when they overrun. The EMC denied the petition, but did add May and October to the legally defined summer recreation season, and lowered the E. coli limit that could be released from waste water treatment plants during those months. ADEM launched an opt-in email sewage spill notification system in response to the petition, but the effort falls short of a robust response. Email is required to access the program. Not everyone has Internet access or knows about the system. Notices posted are days, sometimes a week, after the event. Often the information is incomplete. Or reports are not filed at all. Regulations need minimum standards of public notification. We can’t make informed decisions about our water recreation plans until we know how clean or dirty our water is. Swim Guide posts every Friday until Labor Day. Check at our Facebook page, our website or the Swim Guide app, available for free download. You can also sign up for personal text alerts. Don’t dip, til you get the skinny.
The eight Alabama Waterkeeper organizations that filed the petition with the Alabama Rivers Alliance are: Black Warrior Riverkeeper, Cahaba Riverkeeper, Choctawhatchee Riverkeeper, Coosa Riverkeeper, Hurricane Creekkeeper, Little River Waterkeeper, Mobile Baykeeper, and Tennessee Riverkeeper.