New Year's Resolutions? Keep asking the same questions.
In 2012 I sent complaints in February, April, June, August, October, and December out to just about every group that has a stake in environmental stewardship including media outlets to keep them informed. City, County, State and Federal officials and agencies also received the complaints - too many to list here.
I have been documenting the garbage in One Mile Creek, Maple Street Canal and the adjacent wetlands complaining that it violates city and county litter ordinance codes, plus the Federal Clean Water Act. First question, "Will you please get the property owners to remove the garbage from their property along the waterways?" No change in 2012. The creek and shorelines are still lined with garbage and the feedback to this question usually says, "the State and the City of Mobile are working together to correct the problem." Really? Nothing has changed in a year. View last month's photos here: One Mile Creek and Three Mile Creek Photos
The second question I keep asking is: "Is it safe to kayak in One Mile Creek and Maple Street Canal?" The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) advises the nearby landfill falls under the jurisdiction of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM). ADPH forwarded my request to ADEM to have the creeks and wetlands tested to determine whether the public is safe or not. Thank you Dr. Williamson. Unfortunately the Alabama Department of Environmental Management has ignored my written letters and emails all year. Even an office visit yielded zero information.
Why do I keep asking if it is safe to kayak in those waterways? One Mile Creek and Maple Street Canal are two of the waterways that the City of Mobile and the EPA funded group Mobile Bay National Estuary Program (MBNEP) asked volunteers to kayak, canoe or boat up into in order to remove the City of Mobile's storm water garbage that has been accumulating in that area for years. The event was called, "Clean Up The Bottom." (1)
Mobile Bay National Estuary Program and the City of Mobile neglected to inform "Clean Up The Bottom" volunteers that One Mile Creek, old Three Mile Creek, and Maple Street Canal border an eroding landfill (closed) that some say should be on the US EPA Superfund list. Major Oops. The old Hickory Street Landfill is also known as EPA FACILITY ID ALD980842637. ADEM tested and found the landfill site had contamination above levels of concern.(2a) Rusted 55 gallon drums can be seen half buried in the creek bank at water level. There is not a single warning sign in the waterway areas to alert boaters, canoeists, and kayakers to the potential health risks of being near the contaminated landfill. Is it just the landfill that is contaminated or are the creeks and wetlands affected as well? That is a valid question considering the information known and the fact that the 30 foot high contaminated landfill with a eroding cap drains into 2 foot high wetlands around Maple Street Canal, One Mile Creek, and Three Mile Creek.
Quoting a 2006 Health Consultation Report on the Hickory Street Landfill, it says, "Soil and sediment from the wetlands and creeks have not been tested." (2b)
Quoting a 2011 report by Ben Raines, "No fish in One Mile Creek which borders the landfill and empties into Three Mile have been tested" as told to him by an ADEM official. (3)
What is my New Year's Resolution? Keep asking the same questions. "When are you going to remove the garbage from One Mile Creek, Maple Street Canal and the surrounding wetlands?" "Have One Mile Creek and Maple Street Canal fish, water, and sediments along with adjacent wetlands been tested yet to determine if it is safe for the public to kayak in the area? Is it safe for volunteers to be out on those creek banks removing the City of Mobile's ignored storm water litter accumulations?
The City of Mobile and the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program leaders need to know before they haphazardly organize another volunteer "Clean Up The Bottom" event in the potentially contaminated area. The people living along Mobile Bay might want to know whether the sediment in One Mile Creek is toxic or not. The directly connected waterways are less than 8 miles apart. People catching fish in the Three Mile Creek watershed might want to know if the fish in One Mile Creek carry toxins.
One local environmental group recently asked if I wanted them to organized a big clean up event for the area. Whoa! I told them, "No way!" The Alabama Department of Environmental Management said the old landfill was toxic above levels of concern. The City of Mobile supposedly has the Landfill fenced to keep the public out. Despite a year of requests, ADEM has yet to indicate whether the adjacent waterways and unfenced garbage filled wetlands which receive the storm water runoff from the toxic landfill are safe for public activity. Kudos to Alabama Coastal Foundation for asking.
All I can do is keep writing letters begging representatives and leaders to help me get some answers from ADEM. The courtesy of a reply goes a long ways. The longer an environmental agency remains silent on an issue the more they are probably trying to cover up. ADEM did after all admit to ignoring the only recommendation issued to it by the Alabama Department of Public Health which was testing of the fish in One Mile Creek. (2c)(3)
Meantime, the amount of garbage in the water and on shorelines along these two creeks is a revolting sight to see. One of the most densely polluted properties is owned by the City of Mobile. The City of Mobile does not have many urban waterways that offer the public an opportunity to kayak and commune with nature along undeveloped property. It is a real shame to see Mobile Leaders continue to treat these precious few waterway assets as garbage dumps to be ignored. It is mind boggling to know the City and County have people working all the time removing land based litter but they do not care enough to put even one worker out there removing public garbage from what few urban waterways they possess. It is time to replace Mayor Sam Jones and his cronies.
You can follow this environmental pollution saga under the above category "The Ugly"
(1) "Clean Up The Bottom Community Clean Up" WKRG News 5.
(2) "Health Consultation Report, Hickory Street Landfill" U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
a. "ADEM’s initial assessment did find contamination on the site that was above levels of concern." Page 6
b. "Soil and sediment from the wetlands and creeks have not been tested." Page 8
c. "ADEM should continue to monitor fish tissue from Three Mile creek and One Mile Creek." Page 9
(3) "Hickory Street Landfill's Cap is Eroding Away" Ben Raines. Press Register. November 2011.
"No fish in One Mile Creek — which borders the landfill and empties into Three Mile — have been tested."
Third paragraph under "No Follow Up Tests."