Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Opinion | Mayor Maddox, keep the sewage out of our water

CW / Natalie Teat
Since 2018, nearly 42 million gallons of sewage have spilled into Tuscaloosa’s streets amd streams.

Just across the road from campus, students and local citizens stroll along Tuscaloosa Riverwalk, gazing peacefully upon the Black Warrior River. Its waters glisten in the early spring sunlight as they float lazily by. Its surface-level beauty is enticing but disguises the ugliness hidden underneath.

Black Warrior Riverkeeper is an organization dedicated to protecting the Black Warrior River and other water sources in the Tuscaloosa area. Recently, the organization has begun protesting to the city of Tuscaloosa for what it says is a decades-long neglect of the local sewer system.

In fact, according to a notice it released last October, “nearly 42 million gallons of sewage have spilled into Tuscaloosa’s streets, backyards, and streams since 2018.” The city’s apparent inability to maintain its sewer system is having drastic effects on the local clean water supply and the local population.

Only a 15-minute drive from The University of Alabama lies Hurricane Creek Park. A popular destination for families and college students, the park boasts winding trails with stunning views of the burbling creek. On warm weekends, it’s quite common to find locals soaking in the sun as children splash and play in the water.

What a tragedy it is to realize how dangerous this seemingly innocent activity could be. Research from Black Warrior Riverkeeper reports that “approximately 2 million gallons of raw sewage spilled in Cottondale Creek, Hurricane Creek, and Little Hurricane Creek alone since 2018,” including pollutants like  “chloride, aluminum, barium, manganese, iron, and sodium.”

It is a shame to hear how local streams and rivers we all know and love have been desecrated by a city failure. A failure that was only finally noticed by those outside of Tuscaloosa last September.

In September 2023, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management sued the city for its illegal discharge of sewage. Unfortunately, nothing has come of the lawsuit yet.

The mayor of Tuscaloosa, Walt Maddox, has even spoken out in defense of the city’s sewer system. WBRC received his statement claiming that “from 2018-2022, 99.9 percent of the 32.7 billion gallons of sewage entering our sewer system were treated and returned to the Black Warrior River with a higher water quality than the river itself.”

However, this still does not excuse the millions of gallons of sewage that have been allowed to leak into our streams and rivers without consequence. It does not excuse the risk posed to the over 110,000 people who call Tuscaloosa their home. How can we even trust our own water supply when the city continually fails to prevent and clean leaks?

Just by looking at the website for the city of Tuscaloosa, you can see that there were five sewage leaks in March alone, and these are only the ones we have official notices for. The largest of these spilled over 20,000 gallons of sewage into Duck Creek.

The sheer rate of these sewage spills prove that protests have yet to make a significant impact on the city’s negligent behavior.

In Alabama more than anywhere, it is vital that our water resources are protected with vigilance. Our waterways are critical for a variety of purposes, from providing clean drinking water to powering hydroelectric plants. According to the Encyclopedia of Alabama, they also support “some of the most biologically rich and diverse plant and animal communities in North America.”

If that’s not reason enough, think of how the polluted water supply affects you as an individual. Will you feel safe swimming in the waters of Hurricane Creek, or be able to fully enjoy a walk by Black Warrior River knowing what may lie beneath, poisoning the waters? If not, it’s up to you to take action and protect our community.

Black Warrior Riverkeeper is petitioning Maddox and the Tuscaloosa City Council to initiate change and stop sewage spills. Be a part of the solution and sign the organization’s online petition to help reach its goal of 1,600 signatures. Protect our water, protect our city.

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