Daphne Utilities (UBD) is firing back after continued allegations from Mobile Baykeeper that it’s violating pollution standards for sewage discharge and claiming the environmental nonprofit is misrepresenting numbers and overstepping its bounds.

As Lagniappe reported earlier this week, Baykeeper has alleged Daphne Utilities exceeded permitted levels of certain types of bacterias when discharging treated sewage on several occasions in January — a claim based on the organization’s own reporting.

It’s the latest in a series of allegations against UBD, which have already prompted civil actions from Baykeeper as well as the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM).

Currently, Baykeeper has a pending lawsuit against UBD over allegations that it routinely violated federal and state pollution standards and “fraudulently reporting” the number and severity of sewage overflows last year.

On Thursday, the eastern shore utility responded with a press statement of its own
accusing Baykeeper of “sensationalizing” and “distorting” its reports in the media.

“We have had several days over the last six months where we’ve exceeded our parameters. In these months, we’ve been performing maintenance, replacing equipment and making repairs in our normal operation cycles,” the statement reads. “As a result, we expect to see irregularities in increases of millionths per part in our discharge as we shut down, changeover and perform services on the system.”

While UBD acknowledged instances in January where levels of bacteria or suspended solids exceeded the levels permitted under ADEM, it said when those occur, it’s “generally limited to a day or days” and not an entire month.

The full statement from the Daphne Utilities Board is below:

Baykeeper has already made these allegations in court and the judge rejected their motion to add additional claims. This recent media release is an attempt to sensationalize their allegations in hopes they appear as a watchdog when, in reality, they are distorting and misrepresenting the reports.

The institution responsible for protecting and managing these reports is ADEM, not Baykeeper. In fact, the court ruled last month Baykeeper could not collect attorney fees, nor reap any other monetary compensation, as ADEM is the lead on this matter. This recent press release may likely be a fundraising appeal in light of the court’s denial of their petition.

As to the reports we filed with ADEM on discharge monitoring, we have had several days over the last six months where we have exceeded our parameters. In these months, we have been performing maintenance, replacing equipment and making repairs in our normal operation cycles. As a result, we expect to see irregularities in increases of millionths per part in our discharge as we shut down, changeover and perform services on the system. These variations are on a day by day basis and not an entire month or week, but generally limited to a day or days.

This is not a continuing matter. In fact, last month we had no exceedances. It is unfortunate, but not surprising, Baykeeper did not choose to inform the media Daphne Utilities was in full compliance for the most recent report filed in March.

To say we have been out of compliance for a whole month is a distortion of what the report shows. There have been days within a month where we exceeded small amounts per million and as a result that will impact our averages as reported to ADEM, but we have never been out of compliance for every day in a month. Under ADEM policies, any variation outside the set parameters, even for just one day, can create a violation for the whole month.

We take any and all violations very seriously, which is why we reported them to the proper authorities. We are working with the governmental body charged with overseeing our operations and we are complying with all of their requests. We will continue to work with ADEM to identify any issues which might require remediation and we look forward to getting back on track for another decade of award-winning environmental service for our growing community.