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Groups want EPA to revoke ADEM authority

By Ben Raines

January 16, 2010, 6:15AM
ADEMUPDATE.jpgView full sizeMOBILE, Ala. -- Charging that the Alabama Department of Environmental Management has failed to enforce key sections of the federal Clean Water Act, a coalition of environmental groups has asked the federal government to take away Alabama's regulatory authority.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would take over, should ADEM lose its authority to regulate water permits under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.

"We have received notice of the petition and we will work closely with EPA to address all of the allegations that are contained in the petition. We take very seriously not only this petition but the responsibility we have to protect Alabama's water resources on behalf of all our citizens," said ADEM spokesman Scott Hughes.

One of the key charges in the 77-page petition, which was sent to the EPA on Friday, is that Alabama has failed to provide adequate funding for ADEM. The agency has, in turn, failed to hire enough inspectors to keep track of the thousands of pollution permits issued in recent years, according to the petition.

"Our (water) program is routinely evaluated by EPA and they have never documented any issues that would support the withdrawal of our authorization to administer the NPDES program," Hughes said.

EPA officials did not return calls for comment.

ADEM is also accused of failing to issue penalties for pollution violations as required by federal law, failing to respond to complaints and tips from citizens, and of inspecting just 20 percent of "major" permit holders in 2009 instead of the 100 percent required by law.

The petition also details hundreds of examples of the state failing to inspect construction sites, sewage plants and industries for years at a time. For instance, in 2008 ADEM inspected less than 1 percent of the 6,049 companies, farms or other industries that have been issued "non-major" water pollution permits. At that rate, those entities "will be inspected once every 167 years on average," according to the petition.

The petition states that ADEM has "no record" of ever inspecting at least nine coal mines in the state that have water pollution discharge permits. Other coal mines had not been inspected in seven or more years.

Mitch Reid, with the Alabama Rivers Alliance, met with EPA officials in Atlanta on Friday to present the petition. He said the group's goal was to "make something comprehensive enough, with enough factual evidence, that EPA would have to act."

"The EPA was very aware of the issues that we've had with ADEM. We are optimistic that we are going to see some changes," Reid said, describing the state program as "fundamentally broken" and failing to "meet minimum federal standards."

EPA records show a dramatic decline in the number of inspections and enforcement actions by ADEM in 2009. In August, ADEM official Jerome Hand described those EPA statistics as "not up-to-date," and said the EPA records "have been questioned by (ADEM)."

"ADEM has long been seen by many in this state as the No. 1 environmental problem," said Casi Callaway, director of Mobile Baykeeper. "We've tried for five years to improve how ADEM protects our water resources, with no luck. This is our last-ditch effort."



Comments

 (11 total)     RSS
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enviroengr
Posted by enviroengr
January 16, 2010, 7:46AM

Classic

Environmental groups want to make a big deal about:

ADEM does not have enough people/money - Get in line! No agency is well staffed in Alabama. Compared to prisons and Medicare, funding the environmental agency takes a back seat everywhere. - What is there to sue about on this point?

ADEM did not fine businesses enough - No amount will ever be enough for these people. Again, fines like this drop in tough economic times as business go under and the ability to pay zeros out.

Coal mines - 9 did not get inspected? Big whoop .... except that it is coal! Can't have 'dat evil coal! No suh! I can't wait for the lights (and heat and AC) to go out because coal is not available at an economic cost.

These enviros will not be satisfied until businesses and jobs are completely stamped out by regulations.

ADEM is by no means perfect, but these people are NUTS!!!


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enviroengr
Posted by enviroengr
January 16, 2010, 8:04AM

Classic

Environmental groups want to make a big deal about:

ADEM does not have enough people/money - Get in line! No agency is well staffed in Alabama. Compared to prisons and Medicare, funding the environmental agency takes a back seat everywhere. - What is there to sue about on this point?

ADEM did not fine businesses enough - No amount will ever be enough for these people. Again, fines like this drop in tough economic times as business go under and the ability to pay zeros out.

Coal mines - 9 did not get inspected? Big whoop .... except that it is coal! Can't have 'dat evil coal! No suh! I can't wait for the lights (and heat and AC) to go out because coal is not available at an economic cost.

These enviros will not be satisfied until businesses and jobs are completely stamped out by regulations.

ADEM is by no means perfect, but these people are NUTS!!!


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ccw36575
Posted by ccw36575
January 16, 2010, 9:35AM

Enviroengr: your name would lead me to believe your and "environmental engineer". But that means you find ways to manipulate the environment, correct? No we don't need to shut down coal plants, but do you have any idea of the hazards related to coal slurry. Google recent and past coal slurry spills and report back on the amount of fish kills.

I can say that not all violations of the law get fined, many get warning letters and documentation. Why letters? Because a gallon of water soluable material spilled into a fast moving river due to a pipe burst during the freeze is not negligent. A guy falls asleep and overflows a tank, thats negligent.
But ADEM does need more funding, and there is no way around it. ADEM could use maybe $20 mil of the $100 million Haiti is getting and that would benefit our citizens.

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bbabust
Posted by bbabust
January 16, 2010, 9:46AM

Alabama's leadership continues to successfully oppose any and all regulation that is prudent and reasonable. Just look at the record of continued abuse. Power plant pollution has cost the Birminham area 10's of billions of $ in economic development, McWane Pipe finally admitted to a history ofwater pollution, and Alabamians are paying almost $500,000,000 more each year for regulated utilities. As but one example, go to Huntsville, AL. Utilities web site for cost comparisns.

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PowhatanTribe
Posted by Powhatan
January 16, 2010, 11:57AM

We support the petition for EPA to revoke ADEM authority
and ask EPA to follow through on an earlier promise to look into the use of minority communities as dumpling grounds for toxic wastes. ADEM failed to honor a DDT Consent Decree that require posting of warning signs on waterways where the public may be exposed to pollution. Triana and Indian Creek in Madison County is a historic area contaminated by DDT and other toxins, The failure of ADEM to post warning signs at National Priority List (NPL) sites is a public saftey issue and ADEM has made no attempt to warn the public of contaminated fish consumption at waterways in the Triana area. Two NPL sites are located at Triana, Redstone Arsenal and Tennessee River in Madison County.

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jezzwine
January 16, 2010, 1:59PM

The people of Sylacauga are sure glad to see this happen.If you have passed through Sylacauga on Hwy 21 in the evening time the past year,you will understand what we are all so upset about.The stench that is coming from the Reef environmental water treatment plant is so ungodly that it is making people sick and causing all kinds of health matters.ADEM has been contacted hundreds(that's right I said hundreds)of times about this matter and all we get is a big run around and a bunch of excuses.They never come around when the matter is at it's worst witch is at night fall.I guess that heated and air conditioned office has made ADEM employees lazy and sorry.And if anyone says that they don't have the money to check out all complaints,I WILL PROUDLY give the money to get you here and even take you out to eat.That is if you can stand to eat around this stench. ADEM is robbing this small town of people and their lives!!!! Man up and do your jobs for a change,these are peoples lives for Gods sakes!!

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ladygenius
Posted by ladygenius
January 16, 2010, 5:10PM

I hope that this effort does some good. Thank goodness someone is thinking about long term wealth --- our natural resources. If we pollute them all beyond repair, then we are really screwed. It's a shame more people don't realize that. Some businesses come to Alabama b/c they know that they can break environmental laws and not get in trouble. It's time to change that. Our future depends on it.

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enviroengr
Posted by enviroengr
January 16, 2010, 5:48PM

NO

No business comes to Alabama because they think that they can break environmental laws.

Zero, zilch, nada.

Why?

Because the downside to intentionally breaking environmental laws is so huge, AND there are so many entities (besides ADEM) that can drag a business into court for violating environmental laws that this idea is total and complete bunk.

Seriously


Sleep easy at night. Many problems exist, but that is not one of them.

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bosleyalderman
Posted by Bosley Alderman
January 16, 2010, 8:37PM

Ah, an ADEM apologist!

Yes, it's apparent that enviroengr has never passed through Sylacauga on a day when REEF is spewing out chemicals into the air and water. This person asks us to "sleep easy at night"; quite impossible when you cannot breathe! ADEM is charged, at the highest level in the state, to keep our air and water clean. They are not doing their jobs and I, for one, am glad to see this petition move forward. Before commenting, I wish everyone would read the history of ADEM and its' directors; they might have a different viewpoint.

Yes, there are many problems in Alabama; ADEM ranks right up at the top!

Sincerely,

Bosley Alderman

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alabamacoal
Posted by alabamacoal
January 17, 2010, 9:21AM

A sweeping majority of Alabamians understand this incident shall remain a fanatical publicity stunt. Born from desperation and delusion by people who, I believe, wish to see no development, no dams, no new roads, no home construction, no commerce, no logging, no mining, no power plants, no chicken houses, no cattle farms, no natural gas. no JOBS! Environmentalists excoriate and abhor economic growth, advancement, and progress. It is my opinion their ethos drives up the costs of living, and brings down the ability to grasp opportunities.

You suppose I'm embellishing? Go to the following site and study their "issues" in the drop-down menu.

http://www.blackwarriorriver.org/

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babariley
Posted by babariley
January 17, 2010, 5:34PM

This is crazy. Alabama needs ADEM. Fix it. Make Georgia pay for it, they need water for Atlanta.

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