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Riverkeeper group calls new ADEM report “shameful” after Tyson wastewater spill

Updated: Sep. 5, 2019 at 10:45 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Environmental advocates are slamming the Alabama Department of Environmental Management over a wastewater spill into a central Alabama waterway in June.

Wednesday on ADEM’s website, the Black Warrior Riverkeeper group found a report detailing high levels of bacteria and e-coli from the Tyson wastewater spill, that killed hundreds of thousands of fish in June on the Mulberry Fork which a tributary of the Black Warrior River.

"We are just now seeing the bacteria results for the first time and they were over 30 times the safe swimming and recreation bacteria levels for waterways in Alabama,” Nelson Brooke, with the Black Warrior Riverkeeper said.

The Riverkeeper group has been asking ADEM for the results since the spill. They never received them, until they started digging around on ADEM’s website. Brooke says it’s frustrating.

"The state agency that’s in charge of protecting our environment and therefore our health and also that of wildlife and pets just dropped the ball. They had the data and they chose not to share it with the public and that’s shameful,” Brooke said.

Just days after our On Your Side Investigation last month into the spill, Tyson foods released an open letter to the public calling he spill unacceptable and admits the fish died because the spilled wastewater lowered the oxygen levels in the water. The latest spill is one of a handful that have happened at this plant since 2011.

Brooke feels ADEM needs to be more transparent about the spills.

"The agency that has the data and the ability to gather it must be the ones that shares it with the public otherwise we’re all left in the dark,” Brooke said.

You can read the ADEM report online.

We received this response from ADEM: “The report, including all data, has been available in the ADEM eFile system on the website for several weeks. In order to inform the public that pathogen levels, as documented by E. coli monitoring, were elevated, the information was available on the home page of the ADEM website in June. At that time, only preliminary results were available that had not been validated. ADEM advised the public to exercise caution and provided information to access updates on the investigation. The initial samples and follow-up samples were validated on the same day. The follow up samples indicated water quality results had returned to pre-release conditions. Those results were immediately posted on a map on the Department’s website. In an ongoing effort of ADEM’s commitment to providing a safe, productive and healthful environment, permanent signage is posted at boat ramps and other locations to allow boaters, anglers, and users to access water quality information, which includes the latest information concerning the Mulberry Fork fish kill.”- M. Lynn Battle with ADEM’s Office of External Affairs said.

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