A new program to monitor what’s flowing into Mobile Bay from around Daphne is an effort to keep the public aware of water conditions, Mayor Dane Haygood said.
“It becomes an educational opportunity to talk about what some of these causes are — but first and foremost, let’s be honest, let’s be transparent, let’s educate the citizens that are concerned,” Haygood said. “Let’s accept the facts as they are, and let’s be a leader in that regard.”
Daphne Utilities is currently being sued by Mobile Baykeeper for not reporting spills and endangering the public, the group’s website says.
“We filed the lawsuit because Daphne Utilities violated the Clean Water Act and threatened our ability to safely swim, fish and play in our local rivers, creeks and bays — plain and simple,” according to a statement on the Baykeeper website. “This primarily resulted from not reporting significant sewage spills.”
Haygood said Daphne Utilities, a separate entity from the city, didn’t react well to the lawsuit and publicity surrounding the spills, and he and other city and utility officials wanted to be proactive to address the utility’s reputation.
“The facts are what they may be and more may come out as this legal matter concludes, but no matter what, they were harmed in the court of public opinion,” Haygood said. “As a result of the conversations I’ve had with different residents, one of the questions was what can we do better and how can the city assist in sort of spearheading a better process by which our constituents can feel more comfortable with the situation with Daphne Utilities and water quality.”
After getting Daphne Utilities on board, the Coastal Water Monitoring Program was born. This new effort, Haygood said, will monitor four sites in Daphne on Mobile Bay — three by an independent firm and one by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM). The sites being tested independently are at Bayfront Park, D’Olive Bay boat launch and Steadman’s Landing. May Day Park’s water quality will be tested by ADEM, Haygood said.
Results of the testing will be made known almost immediately on the city’s website in the Environmental Programs section.
“There’s a lot of other information on that page,” Haygood said. “You can download the full report, you can download the previous reports as well. We’re really trying to be as transparent as we can.”
Each site will be given a color-coded grade — green, yellow or red — based on ADEM standards for bacteria levels in the water. In the latest test on Feb. 7, all four sites were at the green level. Haygood said currently there is monthly testing, but that will increase during summer months.
Steadman’s Landing does not have any outfalls from Daphne Utilities, Haygood said, so it serves as a kind of control for comparison with the other three sites. The northernmost site, at D’Olive Bay, is affected by other utilities in addition to Daphne Utilities.
“We really wanted there to be independent, third-party testing at a series of sites along the coastline here in Daphne that affect the public waters people utilize for recreation,” Haygood said.
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