Water contamination is a national conversation, but it becomes a good bit more important to individuals when it happens to their source of water. We chose to move to Trinity, Alabama because the country atmosphere and beautiful land supported the kind of back-to-simpler ways living our family desires to live.
We came to Trinity two and a half years ago, so very excited to renovate a 1955 home we call the tacky brown house, to plant new gardens, to enjoy the wells and springs on our lands, and to come home to what we called “the perch” for a place to grow our dreams. Little did we know our dreams would soon begin to be a nightmare.
One of the first things we were drawn to on our land was the presence of a water well and multiple springs. Water wells provide freedom and allow for crops to be watered easily. Springs support the ability to expand the crops as well as the possibility of a pond or watering livestock we hoped to have. We chose West Morgan East Lawrence water services, but knew we also had backup for water on our land and in our well.
In May of this year, the Environmental Protection Agency announced new lower acceptable levels of the presence of chemicals known as PFOA and PFOS. They are part of a family of chemicals created as a by-product of the teflon family, water repellants, and chemicals used in products of multiple large corporations that use the Tennessee River to release their refuse. WMEL Water Authority water was testing at 270 or more times past what was acceptable in the new EPA identified range of parts per billion. Households were warned to consider not using local water and our local water authority head alerted citizens. I am thankful for his honesty and risk taking. As we know now, the very days our gentleman Don Sims warned his citizenry of their danger, political office holders are said to have been meeting to attempt to have him removed from office for telling the truth.
At first the newspaper articles and website searches were alarming, but because often difficulties with water systems are temporary, our family was concerned, and cautiously, immediately went to bottled water for cooking, for family and pets, but our concerns were not overly pressing, trust of our systems had lead us to believe we were being told the truth. However, with awareness comes knowledge, and with each day, we have learned more and more about just how troubled our water, our land, our river, and our policies concerning the environment are in North Alabama. Our Governor Bentley has not declared a state of emergency, our water board, has not authorized testing of individuals for contamination, nor has the EPA or Alabama authorities supplies bottled water during the days following the first announcement. Measures have been taken to purchase water resources from a neighboring city, but the facts further investigated are troubling. The same utility that is supplying the water (for a fee of course) is the same one who is daily legally dumping more contaminants into the Tennessee River which causes additional contamination. We have very little factual information on how the flushing of the system was carried out. What chemicals were used to flush the system and the on-going process to affirm that contamination is not in the pipes, that the pipes in our system are free of lead, and such. We know sadly from Michigan’s experience, that hastily changed lines can lead to more contamination from the flushing and cleaning process itself if not carefully constructed.
While it’s good that our local water systems are working on a temporary solution as identified:
The press release from WMELWSA states the following:
WMELWSA has recently been mixing its processed water with water provided by another system in order to come up with a temporary solution to the PFC pollution problem. We have been removed from the Alabama Public Health Department health advisory list through this temporary solution. We are pleased the initial temporary plan is working. Once our charcoal purification system is operational in September of this year, we hope to have a more reliable and locally operated means to provide water to all of our customers. Ultimately, the PFOS and PFOA problem must be addressed through implementation of a permanent RO system that will take over three years to construct. In the meantime, WMELWSA will continue to work to make its water meet standards and health advisories established by the State of Alabama and the EPA.
There are many missing pieces of information for the public and our family. How were the tests to prove safe water performed? How many locations were tested? How were the pipes and waterways proven to be contaminate build up free before the new water was sent through them? Why isn’t water being provided to the citizens in the contaminated area? Why aren’t citizens being offered testing (after all, testing is more than $1200 per test for these chemicals and they have admitted we were in fact, drinking this contamination and have been more than likely for years). Why is the attorney general of Alabama not going after those who issued permits, those who daily contaminate the river and open dumps? Why are citizens being told that the water is not an issue in our riverways when their own EPA has banned swimming, and advises against eating fish from the river more than once a month if at all? Why are we being told by authorities in the system of changing contamination that our local and state government if failing us?
It’s 95+ degrees in an area already depressed in economy. We’re into this problem several weeks. For many families in North Alabama, they have been quietly tested for decades over previously identified contamination in this same area. Their families are sick, their land is not healthy, their wells are contaminated. Why isn’t that public acknowledgement of continued presence of toxins present in today’s conversations?
There is no water being supplied except through private donations and volunteers. The Governor and his staff continue to say there is not problem. Yet the EPA reports confirm our area has problems, has had problems and they aren’t going away any time soon. Alabama, we have a problem.
It’s June 28th, 2016. Our soil is contaminated, our local authorities are not coming forth with the facts that EPA and other testing has already proven that these chemicals do not simply “go away”. Citizens are sick, sludge and chemicals are continuing to be dumped in the Tennessee River daily (with an AL permit no less). Big business reports that the presence of the chemicals in our human and environmental systems are not necessarily the issue when people get sick, their sicknesses get worse, or they die. Studies prove that at the least the presence of these toxins exaccerbate health issues, they can change the very structures of our health at a cellular level for generations. Scientist at the EPA and private labs throughout the world HAVE linked the presence of contamination chemicals to illness, weakening of individual’s health and the difficulty of removing the chemicals from soil, land, water systems, and animal life. It’s not matter of “if” these chemicals will cause a problem, it’s a matter of watching “when” they will…particularly as nothing is done clean up the contamination.
It’s time to ask everyone to help get the word out. Multiple agencies, individuals and corporations are responsible for damage that must be identified, stopped, remediated, and cleaned up. The work begins with becoming aware of what is happening to water resources in Alabama, Michigan, Minnesota, and New York. The more you read the more you’ll ask questions about the water in your own neck of the woods. I can assure you, we are now aware of many, many proven facts of what has been allowed to happen to ours in North Alabama.
Next community meeting will be July 3rd, Courtland, Alabama Town Depot at 2 pm
One of the easiest to understand articles on what is PFOS and PFOA
This law firm short video succinctly shares what we are up against:
EPA Reports on PFOS Contamination
Additional Links to the Alabama Water Story:
Warriors for Clean Water Organization (a 501c3)
Concerned Citizens of WMEL Water Authority Grassroots
An organization of citizens who have come together to support the communities without bottled water. This group is the backbone of actually getting citizens safe water who are compromised and distributing private donation water as it becomes available.
June 2 Announcement
I am compiling information resources at http://sweetieberry.com/water and will be adding information as it is released.