How safe is water?

Published 8:04 am Wednesday, August 29, 2007

By By Lisa Tindell – news reporter
Ruth Harrell said she is beginning to feel like Erin Brockavich.
Harrell, a founding member of the Coalition for a Healthier Escambia County, spoke to county commission members Monday about research she has conducted into drinking water standards near Timberlands Landfill in northern Escambia County.
Through data collected from agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the coalition has found that the concentration of mercury in the groundwater test wells has been equal to or above the safe drinking water limits for years, Harrell said.
That information, according to commissioners, had not been provided to the group by Alabama Department of Environmental Management or Timberland officials.
Attempts to speak with Timberland officials were unsuccessful Tuesday.
Harrell produced a graph to illustrate information found through research of members of the coalition. The graph included information for safe drinking water limits as set forth by the EPA. Harrell said she found the information on ADEM's Web site.
Harrell said the coalition has been actively providing information to residents in Conecuh County, who are faced with the possibility of a mega-landfill in the area.
Escambia County Commission Chairman David Stokes said he hopes that landfill does not locate in Conecuh County.
In talking to commissioners, Harrell also said she is concerned about mercury-laced dirt that came to Timberlands from Olin Chemicals in Washington County this year. That material is considered dangerous by ADEM standards, but because of the material's age, it was grandfathered out of meeting those standards. County commissioners said they did not even know about the material until it was reported in area newspapers.
Commissioner Larry White said he believed violations were made when the tainted materials were brought to Timberlands Landfill.
Stokes said the county currently does not have a relationship with ADEM representatives, but he said that relationship is necessary.
Harrell said ADEM does not publish ground water test results on its Web site to be made available to the public or government officials.
Harrell said groundwater test results are not readily available from any source since September 2006.
With ADEM providing information that four tests per year are conducted, a minimum of four test results are unavailable to press, government officials, environmental officials or the general public.
Harrell suggested the commission join the coalition to form an alliance to work toward getting more information about activity and concerns at Timberlands Landfill.
Stokes said the commission would be happy to work with the group in forming an alliance to address the issues at hand with Timberlands Landfill.
The Coalition for a Healthier Escambia County will continue to work and focus on environmental issues, Harrell said.
The coalition will meet again to discuss environmental issues for Escambia County at 7 a.m. Sept. 22 at D.W. McMillan Hospital. The public is invited to attend.

Email newsletter signup