Little River Waterkeeper

Photo By Cahaba Riverkeeper - Children play in contaminated water on the Cahaba. 

Photo By Cahaba Riverkeeper - Children play in contaminated water on the Cahaba. 

Sewage Right to Know 

For Immediate Release: 

April 11, 2017

Little River Waterkeeper - Bill Shugart (256) 516-2877

Eva Dillard, Staff Attorney, Black Warrior Riverkeeper (205) 458-0095

Click Here For Map: Water Protection Groups Release Map of Sewage Spills in Alabama.

Map Supports Their Statewide Petition for Better Public Notification of Sewage Spills

 Montgomery, AL— Today, on Rivers of Alabama Day, nine water protection groups from across the state have released an interactive map showing all of the sewage spills that were reported to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management during the 2016 calendar year. 

The groups developed the map to educate the public and to make the case for better public notification of these spills.  The map is an easy-to-use tool which allows the public to see what spills were reported in their neighborhoods, communities and favorite recreational waterways during 2016. 

The data underlying the map indicates that between 28.8 million gallons and 46.2 million gallons of sewage overflows were reported in 2016, not including the 9% of spills reported that did not include a volume estimate.  The true volume of sewage spilled across Alabama in 2016 is even higher than the map indicates, as the data reported was incomplete and there were some chronic spills which were not reported.

For over 28% of sewage spills, the operator admitted the verbal notification was not made to ADEM within 24 hours, also as required by regulation.  For 23% of spills, no effort was reported by operators towards notifying the public despite the fact “immediate notification” of the public is currently required by regulation. 

Alabama Rivers Alliance, Black Warrior Riverkeeper, Cahaba Riverkeeper, Choctawhatchee Riverkeeper, Coosa Riverkeeper, Friends of Hurricane Creek, Little River Waterkeeper, Mobile Baykeeper, and Tennessee Riverkeeper collaborated to make the map.

The same groups recently sent a petition to Alabama’s Environmental Management Commission (“EMC”) to adopt regulations which specify how sewage treatment facilities must notify the public when they spill raw sewage.  At a regularly scheduled meeting on April 21, the EMC will vote whether to approve the petition for rulemaking filed by the groups. 

Although wastewater treatment plants are required by Alabama law to “immediately” notify the public of sewage spills, there are no regulations which specify a time, plan or even a bare minimum level of notification --- even though sanitary sewer overflows pose a substantial public health risk and environmental hazard to the citizens of Alabama.

The groups contend that citizens have a fundamental right to know when their local streams and rivers are unsafe for swimming, fishing and other recreation to protect themselves and their families from the serious consequences of sewage pollution. 

Alabama law allows “any person” to petition the Environmental Management Commission to engage in rule making.  Granting a petition for rule making does not mean that a proposed rule will be adopted; it only means that public comment on the proposed rule will be solicited and a decision whether to adopt the proposed rule will be made at a later date. 

“We hope the map released today will not only educate the public, but also help to make the members of the EMC aware of the severity and ubiquity of sewage spills in Alabama prior to their impending vote,” said Eva Dillard, Black Warrior Riverkeeper’s staff attorney.  

For a copy of the petition, click here

For the form citizens can use to notify AEMC that they support the petition, click here

Little River Waterkeeper: Working for the protection and conservation of the Little River and it’s tributaries. We patrol the river, educate the public and promote conservation. 




Little River

 A very special place.


The Little River Watershed is in the northeastern portion of the Upper Coosa Watershed and has a drainage basin of approximately 199 square miles and covers 137,632 acres with DeKalb County containing the largest area of the watershed at 77,910 acres. It is one of the only rivers in the world to run entirely on a mountain, which could be one of the reasons why it is still one of the cleanest rivers in Alabama. The headwaters of the Little River and its East Fork and West Fork tributaries are in Dade, Walker, and Chattooga Counties, Georgia. Little River then flows southwesterly then easterly through DeKalb and Cherokee counties, meandering through Desoto State Park and Little River Canyon National Preserve before emptying into Weiss Lake. 

Little River Canyon continues to bring people to the region and this has caused much of the community to realize the necessity of preserving its region for its beauty and economic importance. For the most part, the major concerns for the watershed is listed below. These are the major problems that occur when there are a lack of best management practices (BMPs) and lack of education in regards to the problems.  The little River Waterkeeper works to address the overall problems and provides suggestions towards alleviating negative impacts.

CAFO: Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation

CAFO: Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation

Chicken CAFO's and land application

We are we seeing algae growth in Little River as a result of land application of litter on nearly fields. This could be a result of nitrogen fertilizers that have been applied to nearby fields to promote the growth of plants.  Rainwater can wash nitrates in the fertilizer into nearby tributaries that flow into Little River, causing devastating effects to plants, aquatic wildlife and humans that come in contact with contaminated water.

Logging and Deforestation

Deforestation can have a negative impact on the environment. The most dramatic impact is a loss of habitat for millions of species and the negative effect of sediment pollution from runoff.
The most feasible solution to deforestation is to carefully manage forest resources by eliminating clear-cutting to make sure forest environments remain intact.The Little River Waterkeeper works with the local forestry commission to ensure logging companies are practicing Best Management Practices to lessen their impact. We highly recommend for landowners tobalance the impact by planting young trees to replace older trees felled.