MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — Alabama will crackdown on E. coli bacteria in rivers with revised standards.
Wastewater treatment facilities in the state will face tighter limits from the new standards, which were approved by the Alabama Environmental Management Commission, Al.com reported. The existing five-year permits are valid until they expire, but all new or renewed permits issued by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management going forward will include the new standards.
E. coli bacteria is typically found in the lower intestines of warm-blooded animals, including humans. The bacteria may cause several illnesses including diarrhea.
Its presence in waterways is a common indicator of a sewage spill.
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The E. coli limit that applies during that summer season was lowered from 487 colony-forming units per 100 milliliters of water to 298 col/100mL, roughly a 40 percent decrease.
The changes were approved at the Commission’s December meeting and took effect on Feb. 3.
Water conservation groups petitioned the Commission in 2016 to crack down on sanitary sewer overflows and public notifications of spills. Those petitioning groups are praising the new standards.
“Lowering the amount of bacteria sewage plants can discharge into streams, creeks, and rivers in Alabama is essential to protecting the health of people and wildlife using the water downstream,” said Nelson Brooke, Black Warrior Riverkeeper.
Justinn Overton, executive director of Coosa Riverkeeper, said the steps taken this year by the department will help make Alabama’s waters safer for swimming and other outdoor recreation.
“No mother in Alabama should have to worry about her children going for a swim in the creek,” Overton said. “The sad reality is that this is currently not the case and many of Alabama’s creeks are unsafe for swimming.
Overton added: “We’ll continue to make use of a variety of tools and tactics to get closer to our vision of a swimmable, fishable Alabama and the progress we’ve made this year is very encouraging.”