Sewage can enter the river in many ways, from waste water treatment plant, livestock operations, illegal sewer hookups, failing septic systems and illegal dumping from vessels. Regardless of how it enters the river, pathogens in sewage can make the water unsafe and unenjoyable for recreation. Swimming, boating and other water-contact activities in fecal-contaminated streams and rivers can result in a variety of illnesses from minor infections to serious illnesses. Because sewage is such a major issue that poses a direct public threat, we operate a bacteria monitoring program called Swim Guide every summer at popular swimming holes and stay busy in the off season working to reduce sources of fecal pollution.
Unfortunately, sewage contamination is one of the most widespread problems in the Coosa Valley. Coosa Riverkeeper is concerned about the risk this poses to recreational swimmer and boaters. We monitor waste water treatment plants and respond to citizen complaints about sewage dumping. Our team tests for fecal contamination and encourages able citizens to join in this volunteer monitoring effort by getting trained by Alabama Water Watch.
It is wise to avoid swimming near sewage treatment plants so that in the event of an issue one is not at risk. Thanks to pressure from Coosa Riverkeeper and our partner groups, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management now operates a free e-mail notification alert for sewage spills which you can sign up for at this link. Below is a map of permitted sewage treatment plants in the Coosa Valley.
Alabama Department of Environmental Management studies in 2002 showed Choccolocco Creek definitely has fecal coliform problems, but studies from 1998 suggest the problem is common elsewhere on the river. A 2002 Alabama Department of Public Health study estimates that as many as 20% of houses in some counties like Cleburne may have inadequate sewage disposal.