TALLADEGA COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) — Through a local amendment on next week’s election, voters in Talladega County will determine if septage can be applied to land throughout the county.
If Talladega County’s Amendment 2 passes, septage may not be applied on land as a fertilizer, soil amendment, or otherwise.
The septage material is a mixture of sewage and old restaurant grease. It can also be defined as sewage or a mixture of sewage, sludge, fatty materials, human feces, and liquid removed during the pumping of a domestic onsite sewage disposal system.
It is dumped on a portion of land just outside Lincoln city limits and across from the sports complex.
“People are trying to go to t-ball or ball games and so fourth and have a hot dog, and you’ve got flies and the smell and it is just horrible,” said Larry Phillips, who lives on an adjacent property to the dumping.
In addition to concerns about the smell, Phillips is also worried about the impact to his land and the environment.
After a rain, Phillips said runoff comes onto his property, where he raises cows.
“My cows are drinking that. It runs through the pasture. It gets on the grass that they eat, the water they drink, and then I take those cows to the sale,” said Phillips.
The process of land application is regulated and permitted through the Alabama Department of Public Health. Inspections are also part of the process.
People who work with septic systems report that fewer municipal wastewater treatment plants are accepting the septage.
“There is a limited number of people who are doing land application in Alabama, eventually based on growth, you are going to run out of places you’re going to be able to put sewage,” said Charles Hall, Executive Director of the Alabama Onsite Wastewater Association.
Hall believes pumpers and septic installers need to have some place to legally discharge of the material, adding that costs could be passed onto the consumer.
“If more and more facilities are closed to pumpers, there is less and less land application at some point there is very little place to put sewage that is pumped from a septic tank, so people with a septic tank are going to have a much higher fee to have to pay to get their septic tanks pumped,” said Hall.
Phillips said he’s had water samples showing high levels of E. Coli. The Coosa Riverkeeper is also concerned about any runoff entering streams that flow into the Coosa River and Logan Martin Lake.
“Between this area and the river you’ve got tons of households, children, and families that may be recreating on the Coosa River, unknowingly in the by-products of human waste,” said Justinn Overton, Executive Director of the Coosa Riverkeeper.
Overton said the lake is a source of revenue for neighboring towns like Lincoln and Pell City. She does not want to see the water quality impacted.
“In Alabama, our state motto is we dare to defend our rights. And in conjunction with that, Alabama is the river state. So Coosa Riverkeeper encourages folks in Talladega County to vote yes on Amendment 2 on election day,” said Overton.
The local amendment is only for Talladega County. It would not impact biosolids.
“If a chicken farmer wants to put out chicken manure or things like that for a true farming endeavor, it does not prohibit them from doing that,” said Phillips.
Lincol Mayor Lew Watson and Talladega County Commissioner Jackie Swinford also oppose the practice and encouraged citizens to vote “yes” next week.
“I want it out of my county. I am tired of it. I have had enough of it,” said Swinford.
CBS 42 reached out to a representative of the company applying the septage, but he declined an interview request over concerns of pushback from neighbors. He did share a copy of a Tuesday health inspection where a score of “98” was recorded by an inspector from the county health department.
Phillips has questions about all regulations being followed and about the inspections, but he is anxious for the results next week.
“If you are against dumping human feces on top of the ground, vote yes,” said Phillips.
Stay with CBS 42 for updates on the amendment.
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