TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WIAT) — Engineering researchers from the University of Alabama are working on a project to improve wastewater treatment systems in rural west Alabama.
Dr. Mark Elliott and his team of researchers are working to prevent raw sewage from draining into waterways. In the Black Belt, an area of 17 counties across mostly southwest Alabama, most residents do not have access to public sewer and the soil conditions cause septic systems to fail.
“If you have wastewater backing up into your yard there is obviously a threat especially if you have kids and pets and they can bring those pathogens from the wastewater back into the home and people can get sick that’s a definite threat,” Elliott said.
This can cause a backup of a septic system and risk sending untreated wastewater into the streams, lakes, rivers and groundwater nearby. Elliott is hoping his project will give rural residents peace of mind and prevent raw sewage from getting into waterways.
“There’s also a threat when wastewater washes down when it rains and washes down into a stream or river or a creek and people can be exposed if they are using that water,” Elliott said. “That could be from a drinking water intake that’s downstream from the discharges”.”
Eutaw resident Jacqueline Allen is glad UA researchers are trying to help her community in Greene County.
“We are thankful for anybody who can help us with all the issues that we have here in Greene county,” Allen said. “It’s awesome that they are here and we hope they will continue to be here until we get the problem solved. Out in the rural area’s people don’t have sewage”.
The UA project is a five-year operation that’s funded by a grant for $710,000.