One of the state’s leading river protection groups has sued the Alabama Department of Corrections, claiming sewage is being improperly treated at its Donaldson Correctional Facility in west Jefferson County.
Black Warrior Riverkeeper has filed suit Thursday in U.S. District Court in Birmingham, alleging the correctional facility’s sewage treatment plant is discharging improperly treated wastewater into Big Branch, a tributary of Valley Creek upstream of Bankhead Lake on the Black Warrior River.
The suit alleges that Donaldson’s actions violate the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit program. Authorized by the Clean Water Act, the NPDES regulates point sources (pipes or man-made ditches) that discharge pollutants into U.S. waterways. Institutions and facilities that discharge directly into surface waters must obtain a NPDES permit.
Efforts to reach the state Department of Corrections for comments have been unsuccessful thus far. The suit notes that the Donaldson Wastewater Treatment Plant has had a long history of permit violations.
“We sent the Department of Corrections a notice of our intent to sue in 2004 for improper sewage treatment at Donaldson Correctional Facility, an action which instigated the prison’s cleanup after over a decade of sewage pollution,” said Nelson Brooke, a Riverkeeper spokesman. “Unfortunately, the prison is again violating its permit to discharge properly treated wastewater, allowing bacteria to flow into Big Branch. We are again taking legal action to hold the state accountable for polluting the river upstream of where countless of people live, swim, recreate, and fish on a regular basis. It’s time to get this mess cleaned up.”
Eva Dillard, Staff Attorney for Black Warrior Riverkeeper, said “Operations of our state government, especially the Department of Corrections, should not only follow the law, they should exemplify best practices necessary to conserve and protect the valuable water resources that belong to all of the citizens of Alabama.”
The suit asks that Donaldson comply with the NPDE permit and award civil damages for its violation. To read the lawsuit, click here.