Black Belt Citizens group discusses Uniontown issues

Published 6:35 pm Tuesday, September 18, 2018

On Monday, the Black Belt Citizens (BBC) group met at Uniontown City Hall to discuss their progress on the sewage issues that the town is experiencing.

“The decisions are being made without the people actually knowing what is going on,” said Ben Eaton, who is with the BBC. “We do have a water issue along with a sewer issue. Not too long ago we attended meetings that were supposed to be addressing those issues. Tonight, we want citizens to share their concerns. I know others are here that have been experiencing the same things in their towns.

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“In less than a month, a proposal has been approved that we are very concerned about,” said Eaton. “That is due to the fact that one of the causes to our problems is trying to be a solution. On July 23, we had a public hearing concerning the wastewater treatment facility. Since 2012, we have been arguing the point of using a mechanical treatment plant. All of a sudden it was proposed to use a mechanical treatment plants to fix our sewage problems. Our concern about mechanical treatment plants being used is to accommodate one of the problems we have and that is our landfill. Our landfill would use this mechanical treatment plant to fix their problems at the expense of the citizens.

“The system they have to acquire to fix the landfill is the most expensive there is,” said Eaton. “Our water bill is going to raise through the roof because we are covering the expense on what the landfill needs to fix their problem, and I’m concerned about that. My opinion is to get what the city needs, and get a treatment plant that will accommodate our needs, and let the landfill do their own thing. That is how I feel about it.”

Phyllis Gosa, a landowner in Tallassee, who is dealing with the Stone’s Throw Landfill and their alleged toxic wastewater, leachate spoke to the BBC.

“A natural spring was contaminated with arsenic, lead and some other chemicals and a well down the road had the same thing,” she said. “ADEM came and said that they needed an alternate source of water. For 20 years, people have been using this water, and nobody had attempted to source it. In 2003, I filed a complaint with the EPA because they were getting ready to modify and expand the landfill. As of now, the landfill there has over 200 to 300 acres, and it is just massive. Last year, three gentlemen in Macon County filed lawsuits against the city of Tuskegee, the water system, the landfill and the owner of the landfill is Advanced Disposal. The attorneys came in, and did a sampling of the water. It was contaminated in multiple places downstream. The water goes to the Tallassee Wastewater Treatment, and they do what they can with it, which has been determined as not properly treated.

“They then put it back into the Tallapoosa River,” said Gosa. “The river goes downstream, and Macon County pulls their supply about 500 feet from where the leachate has been treated. The entire Macon County and Tuskegee water supply has been contaminated by the leachate that has come from Stone Throws Landfill in Tallapoosa County.

“It is a problem,” she said. “Three of the things they cited in the landfill that were coming out of the Tallassee Wastewater Treatment was chlorine, which creates a bigger problem, partially and untreated leachate in the water of the citizens in Tuskegee, Macon County, and the majority of the people do not know that that is what they are drinking.”

Gosa said the BBC should go to the source of the problem instead of making the citizens handle the problem.

Other residents considered the dumping of the sewage should go to Demopolis, but others quickly said that would not be the right solution.

Other residents voiced their concerns about not being able to speak at city council meetings.

Eaton said that he has been waiting to speak to the council for months, and that continuous meeting cancellations had made it difficult.

Goals have been established by the BBC group and residents following past meetings of what the group should work towards.

Residents of Uniontown met on July 31, Aug. 9 and Aug. 16 to talk about the sewage crisis and agreed on the following goals: fire Sentell Engineering immediately due to improper management of previous sewage issues, no toxic wastewater (leachate) from Arrowhead Landfill in the city’s sewage system, No waste from Southeastern Cheese in the city’s sewage system, Harvest Select is the preferred industry to be sending wastewater to the city’s sewage system and is to fund the majority of needed upgrades and no increases to residential water rates.