Riverkeepers: Mulberry Fork River water might not be safe after wastewater spill

River Spill. Is it safe?

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) -Tyson Farms, Inc. says partially treated wastewater was released from their plant into the riverways on June 6 in Hanceville.

Nelson Brooke with Black Warrior Riverkeepers says it’s been several days since the investigation into the spill ended and they want answers.

Though Tyson Farms is calling it partially treated wastewater, Nelson Brooke says it’s still pretty bad.

“This is a massive rendering plant. They take in chicken carcasses and guts from Alabama’s chicken industry and all the slaughterhouses that service them. So this is really nasty wastewater,” says Brooke.

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources investigated the spill from Friday through Monday. The update they released, says dissolved oxygen has improved since the spill. But Brooke says he wants to know more.

“What they found, how much testing was done for what, what they found, we’re really operating in a bit of a vacuum.”

He says they’re getting several complaints, especially since he says that wastewater has traveled over 40 miles downstream to Mulberry Fork River, where dozens of dead fish could be seen floating. Brooke says when it comes to humans, dissolved oxygen levels don’t really mean that much.

“My colleague tested the river on Monday afternoon at the confluence of the Mulberry and Sipsey Forks and found that the E.coli bacteria level was twice what is the maximum for safe conditions in a river system.”

They know Tyson looked at bacteriological conditions and found pathogens were elevated downstream from the spill site and that’s what is harmful if it gets inside your body. They’re asking ADEM to level a stiff penalty and more oversight to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

“This is all of our river, I mean this is really upsetting to a lot of people.”

Brooke says if the water is muddy looking, do not get in--and use caution. ADEM will generate a report on their findings later and will decide appropriate action.

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