On August 3rd, we notified the Oxford Water Works & Sewer Board we intend to file a citizen suit against them in 60 days time seeking to stop pollution of Choccolocco Creek from the Tull C Allen Wastewater Treatment Plant. We collected samples from the sewer plant for the prior six months which showed extremely high concentrations of E. coli – on one occasion at 308,000 cfu/100mL and on another occasion 246 times their permitted limit. Southern Environmental Law Center is representing us in the case.
Choccolocco Creek is a beautiful creek that is popular for swimming, fishing, paddling and tubing. The pollution from the Oxford Plant has caused harm to our members whose safety has been put at risk while recreating on Choccolocco.
In addition to violations of the E. coli limits imposed by the State, we’ve also detected high levels of chlorine and documented many other issues at the Oxford sewer plant, including their failure to monitor and report according to the terms of their permit. For example, while they are required by their permit to test for E. coli three times per week, they have frequently only tested for E. coli only once or twice per week in the last three years. This failure to adequately monitor is not only a violation of their permit, it is dangerous to the public who recreates in the creek.
Through our Swim Guide program and Choccolocco Creek Monitoring Project in 2015 we detected Choccolocco Creek had levels of E. coli that were unacceptable near Oxford. We reviewed Oxford’s self-tested, self-reported monitoring data which did not indicate problems with E. coli in their discharge. Yet, in doing our job to the fullest, we collected our own samples from the Plant for six straight months. The results showed the highest concentrations of E. coli that we’ve ever seen in the approximately 1,200 bacteria samples we’ve collected over the past two years.
Working with our attorneys at Southern Environmental Law Center, we uncovered that problems at the Oxford sewer plant run deep. This legal action seeks to force Oxford to improve their operations and comply with their permit.
This map shows where the Oxford Plant is located in relation to Floating Fun, LLC (a tubing business) and our Choccolocco Creek Swim Guide site. The creek flows east to west (right to left).
ABOUT THE POLLUTANTS:
What is E. coli and why is it bad? E. coli is a strain of bacteria that government officials and scientists alike use to indicate the extent of fecal contamination in streams. In simple terms, the more E. coli that is present, the more fecal waste and potential diseases that are present. Alabama water quality standards state that in the summer Choccolocco Creek should have an average of no more than 126 colony forming units per 100mL of E. coli. The Oxford Plant is allowed to discharge E. coli into Choccolocco Creek up to a concentration of 487 cfu/100mL at any given time in the summer. Coosa Riverkeeper has detected E. coli concentrations of 308,000 cfu/100mL in February; 24,117 cfu/100mL in April; 4,000 cfu/100mL in May; 120,000 cfu/100mL in June; and 6,400 cfu/100mL in July.
What is chlorine and why is it bad? Chlorine is used to disinfect water as it kills bacteria. Most of the chlorine used in the treatment process is supposed to be removed by it reaches the creek. Chlorine in our streams can harm fish, and so the Alabama Department of Environmental Management has placed limits on how much chlorine Oxford can discharge. While Oxford is allowed to discharge chlorine at a concentration of 0.14 mg/L, we’ve detected chlorine concentrations in our own sampling of 0.21 mg/L in February; 0.20 mg/L in March; and 0.27 mg/L in April.