In the midst of an ongoing lawsuit, Mobile Baykeeper claims Daphne Utilities continued to discharge “millions of gallons of sewage pollution” into the Bay throughout January.
These newest claims come as Baykeeper presses on with a lawsuit against the public utility over allegations it was routinely violating federal and state pollution standards and “fraudulently reporting” the number and severity of sewage overflows.
The Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) and Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall sued Daphne Utilities over similar allegations as well.
In November, the eastern shore utility said it had initiated an independent investigation and would fully cooperate with ADEM, but in a press release this week, the team at Baykeeper said water samples indicate violations there have “continued and worsened.”
Specifically, they say the level of total suspended solids (TSS) like silt, clay and algae in the sewage being discharged into Blakeley River has exceeded permitted levels, which has caused an increased presence of bacteria.
In a report released Wednesday, Baykeeper writes that because Daphne Utilities “uses UV light to destroy harmful bacteria and viruses,” higher concentrations of those TSS can make those treatment processes less effective and drive up the levels of certain bacteria.
As a result, Baykeeper says Daphne Utilities saw two violations related to enterococci — a colony of bacteria that typically indicates “fecal contamination” — in January and a monthly average more than “4,000 percent” of the level that’s legally allowed to be discharged.
“After filing the initial lawsuit, we hoped we would begin to see some improvements,” Executive Director Casi Callaway wrote in a press statement. “Instead, our investigations show Daphne Utilities is dumping millions of gallons of sewage pollution into Mobile Bay every single day.”
In the same release, Baykeeper claims its reporting shows Daphne Utilities released close to 3 million gallons of partially treated sewage every day in January, amounting to approximately 4.6 trillion colonies of bacteria above the legal monthly limit being released into Mobile Bay.
There are depositions of two former Daphne Utilities employees scheduled to take place Thursday, April 5, and Callaway said Baykeeper is committed to remaining involved in any settlement or agreement that comes out of the lawsuit it initiated last Fall.
“Resolution to these ongoing issues needs to come from a transparent and thorough process that includes Mobile Baykeeper, the organization that first brought these issues to light,” she added. “Anything less would lack assurances that these problems are satisfactorily resolved to protect the health of our community.”