Alabama cracks down on E. coli bacteria in rivers with revised standards

Fond du Lac River spill
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( — Alabama wastewater treatment facilities will soon face tighter limits on how much E. coli bacteria they are allowed to discharge into Alabama rivers, thanks to revised standards approved by the Alabama Environmental Management Commission.

Several water conservation groups petitioned the Commission in 2016 to crack down on sanitary sewer overflows and public notifications of spills. Several of those petitioning groups -- Black Warrior Riverkeeper, Coosa Riverkeeper, Cahaba Riverleeper, Choctawhatchee Riverkeeper, Hurricane Creekkeeper, Little River Waterkeeper, Mobile Baykeeper and Tennessee Riverkeeper -- released statements this week 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.

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.

The Commission also extended the yearly recreation season to include the months of May and October. Wastewater treatment plants face tighter standards for what they are allowed to discharge during the recreation season, when people are more likely to be swimming or boating in the water.

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