Lawsuit has been launched to tackle sewer overflows in Alabama on the Coosa River

GADSDEN, To the.– Conservation and community groups today filed formal notice of their intention to sue the town of Gadsden, Alabama, for years of Clean Water Act violations by the town’s wastewater treatment system. The city’s inability to properly maintain its system has resulted in cracked sewer lines, leaking manholes, blockages and pump station failures.

The Gadsden wastewater treatment system has experienced more than 150 illegal sewer overflows in the past five years. The overflows resulted in thousands of gallons of untreated or partially treated sewage being discharged into homes, streets and into Neely Henry Lake, Coosa River, Big Wills Creek, Black Creek and their tributaries and surrounding wetlands.

Today’s notice was tabled by Coosa Riverkeeper, the Center for Biological Diversity, Etowah advanced and The Earth Foundation of our Children.

“The families who live, work and play in Gadsden and on the Coosa River deserve better,” said Justinn Overton, Keeper of the Coosa River. “The frequency and volume of sanitary sewer overflows have an impact on water quality and public health throughout the city. These overflows are in direct violation of their state-issued permits and the Clean Water Act.

Defects in the sewer system also allowed rainwater and groundwater to enter the sanitary sewer system. Excess water submerges sewer lines and manholes, causing significant overflows of untreated sewage.

Many rivers in the Gadsden area have chronically elevated levels of pathogens such as E. coli, causing significant water quality problems that adversely affect aquatic species, human health and the health of the Coosa River. the Coosa Riverkeeper water quality program, Swimming guide, collects data in many of these areas and makes this information available to the public.

Coosa Riverkeeper has received several complaints from community members in Etowah County over the past year regarding sewer overflows. The complaints range from odor issues to overflowing manholes and failing pump stations throughout Gadsden. These spillovers disproportionately affect low-income communities and communities of color.

“Children, the elderly and people with weakened immunity are particularly vulnerable to health problems that can be caused by pollution from sewage. As with so many other problems, this type of pollution affects underserved communities the most. There is no excuse for it, ”said Annie Beaman, Director of Advocacy and Outreach for Our Children’s Earth. “The town of Gadsden should put its house in order by prioritizing the well-being of residents rather than bowing to polluters who would further burden an already overloaded sewage system.

Despite existing capacity and processing issues, in 2020 the town of Gadsden agreed to accept hundreds of thousands of gallons of additional wastewater per day from a Pilgrim’s Pride chicken cut rendering plant. This deal was suspended earlier this year and remains under review.

“The system is down in Gadsden and these Clean Water Act violations show that the Gadsden sewer system is no exception. If the residents of Gadsden see sewage overflows flooding their homes now, can you imagine what it would be like to add a chicken piece rendering plant that dumped 621,000 gallons of trash per day into the system? Said Christie Knowles of Advance Etowah. “For the town of Gadsden, to have recruited such a huge industrial polluter to connect to its broken system is irresponsible and unreasonable. This is yet another reason to “reject the rendering”.

The Coosa River has a rich biodiversity which is also threatened by these illegal discharges. The river provides habitat for many threatened and endangered mussel species, including the fineline wallet, oval clubshell, south clubshell, south pigtoe, and triangular kidney, as well as other plants and animals. sensitive.

The river was also once home to the upland combshell mussel until this species was declared faded away by the US Fish and Wildlife Service earlier this year. The American Rivers nonprofit has previously classified the Coosa as the 10th most threatened river in the USA.

“Gadsden’s chronic water quality violations jeopardize the health and safety of the community and push endangered riverine species to extinction,” said Hannah Connor, lawyer at the Center for Biological Diversity . “Gadsden’s priority should be to keep sewage off the streets and waterways and to protect its exceptional communities and natural resources.”

Gadsden has 60 days to respond to the notice before the groups initiate legal action in federal court. The organizations are represented by internal legal advisers and legal advisers to the Super Law Group, LLC and Knowles & Sullivan, LLC.

View an interactive map of Gadsden sewer overflows here.

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