This web document is a posting of the printed document of the same name and made possible through a grant from the League of Women Voters of Alabama Education Fund. It is for the sole purpose of educating citizens without bias on the issue of environmental management of land, air and water resources in Alabama. Contact information for federal and state environmental regulatory agencies and emergency response phone numbers are also provided. Find out more about this publication.
Although the major laws and regulations affecting the environment date from the early 1970's, environmental management is still a relatively new and evolving field. Often publication on the subject becomes outdated in some specific area before it can be distributed. Since the formation of the U.S. EPA; many people have become aware of environmental threats to clean water, air, and land. Even today, many citizens are not aware of the multiple laws, regulations, and various agencies involved. The lack of laws also plays a role in environmental management in Alabama.
In a September 14, 1998 letter to the newspaper editors around the state,
"Environmental Management in Alabama" is a publication of the League of Women Voters of Alabama Education Fund. The original publication is printed on recycled paper. Cover art is by Shannon Hamil Zaninovich.
"Environmental Management in Alabama" is a publication of the League of Women Voters of Alabama Education Fund. The original publication is printed on recycled paper. Cover art is by Shannon Hamil Zaninovich.
Due to the lack of other public forums, ADEM's public forum on the permit was the only forum available to the residents of the respective areas to express their concerns. Mr. Warr stated, " While there are many legitimate issues related to siting such facilities, in many instances these are beyond the jurisdiction of ADEM. Concerns, which are frequently identified, include noise, traffic, aesthetics, property values, unsightliness, inappropriate development, opposition to development of any kind, and other 'quality of life' considerations. Understandably, the legal limitations under which ADEM operates can be frustrating to those who have concerns".1
Municipalities are authorized to implement planning and zoning programs, but only a few
League of Women Voters of Alabama, like the League of Women Voters of
the United States, has a longstanding commitment to the support of
legislation and citizen action to preserve and enhance the environment.
This report, Facts and Issues: Environmental Management in Alabama,
was published in 1999. It was prepared by a committee of the League of
Women Voters of Alabama: Sybylle Barron, Kathy Bolland, Ruth Ott, and
Maxine Rosser, Chair, based on information provided by Sue Robertson. This publication was made possible by a grant from the League of Women Voters of Alabama Education Fund.
The League of Women Voters of Alabama, like the League of Women Voters of the United States, has a longstanding commitment to the support of legislation and citizen action to preserve and enhance the environment. This report, Facts and Issues: Environmental Management in Alabama, was published in 1999. It was prepared by a committee of the League of Women Voters of Alabama: Sybylle Barron, Kathy Bolland, Ruth Ott, and Maxine Rosser, Chair, based on information provided by Sue Robertson.
This publication was made possible by a grant from the League of Women Voters of Alabama Education Fund.
Citizens often become concerned over a specific siting of a industry or facility but once that issue has be resolved, they wait until the next crisis before they become active in environmental issues again. While this document will provide a summary of the status of some of the environmental issues in the state, we urge you to take additional steps and determine what issues are of concern in your specific area and what can be done on a local level to correct them.
Alabama is rich in water: 47,072 stream miles rank the state 7th nationally; 25 major lakes rank it 14th; and wetland resources rank 24th.2 Since water is constantly cycling through air and ground, anything that affects one affects the other.
Drinking water is taken from the surface (rivers, streams, lakes, and reservoirs) or from groundwater (springs or aquifers, the underground reservoirs tapped by wells), and treated before distribution. Management of drinking water is discussed at the end of this section.
Before water pollution laws were adopted by the U. S. Congress, industrial waste could be released untreated into surface water, injected into wells; buried in landfills, released into the air where it is brought to earth by rain, snow, and hail, sent through municipal sewer or stormwater systems, or leaked from deteriorating tanks or drum storage either above or below ground. Industrial waste can also be released to the environment from spills at the industrial site, trucks, trains or surface water transportation.
Before 1960 most hazardous waste was disposed into oceans,3 and before regulation under RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act intended to reduce hazardous waste) in 1976, up to 90 percent was probably disposed in unlined and unmonitored landfills, often near the site of generation.4/162-163
INDUSTRIAL WASTE RELEASED INTO SURFACE WATER
The Alabama Department of Environmental
ADEM can regulate any pollutant. Items to be regulated include not only toxicity of effluents, but also temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, bacteria, and turbidity. ADEM can set requirements more stringent than that recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines, but all requirements must be at least as stringent as EPA's. In order to receive federal funding and to operate a delegated program, the regulations adopted by the Alabama Environmental Management Commission for ADEM must be approved by EPA for equivalency to federal requirements.
Most industries employ large testing firms for required analyses. Except for drinking water, Alabama has no law that requires certification of laboratories in other areas. In recent years proposed legislation requiring certification of labs for other environmental sampling has been introduced into the Alabama legislature but has not passed. ADEM laboratory personnel conduct performance audit inspections, including reviewing analytical techniques, records, instrumentation and quality control procedures. On all major industrial and major municipal facilities that have National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits, EPA sends blind samples of unknowns and requires the labs that test effluents of those facilities to analyze those samples.5
INDUSTRIAL WASTE INJECTED INTO WELLS
ADEM Groundwater Branch,
ADEM received primary responsibility for the Underground Injection
Control (UIC) program in 1983, regulations prohibited any new
Class IV wells are banned by Alabama and federal regulations, and when discovered, enforcement action is taken requiring the well to close and ground water to be remediated or cleaned up. Alabama presently has 215 active Class V facilities with a total of 519 wells. Thirty (30) of these wells receive water from coal washers, 151 from car and truck washes, I1 from storm water runoff sites, 20 from heat pumps, 1 from a landfill leachate treatment system and 5 wells are being used on a experimental basis for groundwater remediation.6
INDUSTRIAL WASTE BURIED IN LANDFILLS
(See Land Section)
As rainwater and melted snow percolate through soils, aquifers are replenished and waters drain into streams and rivers. A 1984 census estimated that only 19 percent of operators of 16,416 landfills in this country monitored groundwater quality under the landfills and about 8.5 percent monitored impacts on surface water quality.7/6
INDUSTRIAL WASTE STORED IN PITS,
ADEM Mining and Nonpoint Section,
In 1983, EPA estimated there were 181,000 such surface impoundments in the United States, of which 93 percent had high or intermediate potential to contaminate groundwater through seepage or overflow.'
INDUSTRIAL WASTE DISPERSED THROUGH THE AIR
(See AIR section)
INDUSTRIAL WASTE SENT THROUGH MUNICIPAL SEWER OR STORMWATER SYSTEMS
ADEM, Municipal Branch,
When the federal government first charged the Public Health Service to work with states to develop basin-by-basin pollution abatement programs in 1948, 125 municipal sewer systems in Alabama had no treatment, 104 had primary, and the remaining 21 had secondary.2/12 In 1997, all Alabama municipal waste water treatment systems have secondary treatment and 36% have advanced treatment in excess of secondary treatment.8/10 Most industries are now required to pretreat effluent that goes into sewer systems and the municipality as well as ADEM monitors these releases.
Contaminants from gas stations, auto repair yards, junkyards, dry cleaners, car washes, as well as residential yards, do get flushed by rainwater runoff into storm drains. Other contaminants enter the environment through accidental spills. In March 1992, Alabama was the first state in the southeast to receive EPA approval for its Wellhead Protection Program9/7, which could attract funds to help control these unregulated sources of contamination. The program will identify well protection boundaries, inventory contamination sources, and develop a plan to reduce hazards.
The EPA has also required larger cities to have NPDES permits and associated contamination limits for storm sewer systems. The Cities of Huntsville, Montgomery, Jefferson, Shelby, Mobile, and Baldwin counties have been required to obtain permits. In October of 1999, EPA is scheduled to name other cities and counties in the U.S. that will be required to obtain permits for their municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4). EPA's proposed regulations included cities such as Tuscaloosa, Dothan, Anniston, Gadsden, Florence, Muscle Shoals Tuscumbia, Sheffield and Decatur as well as surrounding areas.
ADEM manages a revolving loan program and conducts design reviews for federally-funded sewerage works, permits municipal and some public and private domestic treated wastewater and stormwater effluents and manages the municipal operator certification program. The Water Quality Section (334-271-7826) develops wasteload allocations, reviews and revises water quality standards, drafts and updates water quality management plans, and manages associated grants and programs.
ONSITE SEWAGE DISPOSAL SYSTEMS
Local County Health Departments
Onsite sewage treatment and disposal systems (OSS) are used to provide domestic wastewater treatment and disposal where a municipal wastewater treatment plant is not available. Unlike a municipal wastewater treatment facility where central but remote treatment is provided, OSSs are usually constructed on each individual lot for homes or business establishments in an unsewered area. Most OSSs are conventional septic tank systems which typically consist of a septic tank followed by a subsurface or underground wastewater infiltration system. However, there is currently a trend toward the development of communal systems, where multiple dwellings are tied into a common subsurface disposal site, and these can involve a range of technologies. Also, the entire wastewater disposal industry is experiencing a significant growth in concepts and hardware.
In Alabama, the septic tank system is the most common and inexpensive way to treat and dispose of domestic sewage in rural areas. Almost two million people, or half the population of Alabama, are being served by OSSs. The use of onsite sewage treatment and disposal systems is continuing to In-crease. However, approximately 25 percent of the state's OSSs are unsatisfactory or malfunctioning, and the potential for the spread of disease through contamination of groundwater is on the rise. The estimated 25 percent failure rate is measured by the number of unapproved systems, illegal systems, and repair permits issued/approved. Often, failed systems are found in clusters, notably in small communities, and this is an area where the advent of communal systems may have great potential.
Some homes are still being built and some manufactured housing is installed without a proper OSS. The health department is hampered by the lack of authority to tie a septic tank installation with building permits, or installation of other services such as electricity, water, or phone, and lack of funds and corresponding personnel for enforcement. The lack of regulations requiring periodic maintenance and inspection of septic tanks, and the lack of personnel and funds have also hampered effective correction of failing septic tank systems.
The health departments do not have administrative penalty authority, and use the local judicial system to enforce regulations. The legal system is not always supportive of onsite sewage disposal cases brought before it for enforcement action. Some relatively serious cases have been settled with only minor punitive actions. Judges and district attorneys need to be educated on the environmental impact of failing septic tanks, in order to obtain their support for strong enforcement in this area.
INDUSTRIAL WASTE AS SLUDGE
The sediment from municipal sewerage lagoons is tested for industrial pollutants, particularly metals. Most sludge is applied to land surfaces rather than sent to landfills. It must be "bladeable," that is, the water must have been removed. Sludge with any hazardous material must be handled like any other hazardous waste. Farmers who spread sludge on their land share liability with generators, just as landowners who store or dispose of hazardous waste on their property, even unknowingly, share liability for cleanup.
INDUSTRIAL WASTE SPILLED BY ACCIDENT
ADEM Industrial Section,
or ADEM Field Operations Division,
Approximately once a month there is a wreck or spill that potentially involves a drinking water supply, according to ADEM's Water Supply Branch. Haulers of solid waste must have commercial licenses and post $250,000 bond with the Alabama Department of Public Health.11 Transporters of hazardous waste must also follow permitting and financial assurance requirements of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and ADEM.
The U.S. DOT publishes an Emergency Response Guidebook listing recommended responses to spills, and each community is required to have a response plan for hazardous spills.
INDUSTRIAL WASTE LEAKED FROM
ADEM Groundwater Branch if Below Ground, Telephone Number
ADEM Industrial Branch if Above Ground, Telephone Number
Liquid waste is no longer accepted for disposal at any landfills in Alabama. The Underground Storage Tank (UST) program, which ADEM manages, includes trust funds for corrective action of leaking underground storage tanks storing petroleum products. In 1986 EPA estimated a third of all underground tanks are leaking7/9. In 1986 Alabama had 35,000 underground storage tanks.12
By December 1998, the ADEM UST program has identified 9,238 releases from UST systems; of these, 8,928 have initiated cleanup and 7,808 have completed cleanup. Alabama presently has 17,656 active USTs. It is estimated that 92% of these are in compliance with all environmental regulations including new UST requirements that became effective in late 1998. In order to achieve compliance with new 1998 federal requirements 1,503 USTs have temporarily ceased operations until compliance is achieved.13
ADEM Mining and Nonpoint Source Section, Telephone Number
Wildlife and fish waste get into streams naturally, but concentrations of animal waste, such as those found at dairy, hog, and poultry farms, can severely contaminate surface waters. ADEM has a nonpoint source pollution management program and through memoranda of understanding works with other agencies to reduce such pollution. Alabama Soil and Water Conservation Districts work with farmers, sometimes with monetary assistance, to voluntarily correct concentrations of manure or dead birds through composting, lagoons, barriers, or other methods. In 1999, the Environmental Management Commission adopted regulations for concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO).
SILTATION AND MINING WASTE
ADEM Mining and Nonpoint Source Section,
Alabama Surface Mining Commission,
Alabama Department of Industrial Relations,
The Natural Resource Conservation Service also works with farmers to control erosion. Improper use of the land can leave topsoil vulnerable to movement in wind and rain, as illustrated with severity in the "dust bowl" of the 1930s. Farmers who receive federal subsidies must protect highly erodable land or face loss of benefits. (The Center of Resource Economics, however, says its research shows few farmers are being denied subsidies.)14/50
Stormwater regulations address sedimentation from construction on more than five acres (administered by ADEM). The Alabama Surface Mining Commission and ADEM both issue permits for some mining. Coal mining in Alabama peaked in the 1970s. In 1977-78 ADEM approved 1,014 coal projects and three new federal and state agencies were charged with regulating the coal industry in Alabama in addition to the state environmental agency: EPA, the Office of Surface Mining, and the Alabama Surface Mining Reclamation Commission.
Other types of mining, like sand and gravel quarries and phosphates, are regulated by the Department of Industrial Relations. ADEM regulates the effluent from all mining operations.
CONTAMINANTS FROM TIMBER AND AGRICULTURE INDUSTRIES
ADEM Mining and Nonpoint Source Section,
Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries,
Although no regulations are specific to silviculture (timber growing), implementation of best management practices is required as necessary to protect water quality. While ADEM investigates complaints about sedimentation and chemical runoff, wood preservatives are regulated by the State Agriculture Department, as are pesticides and herbicides (unwanted plants are considered pests) under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act.15 Toxic spent material from wood- preserving plants is handled as a hazardous waste. Agricultural use of pesticides and herbicides also requires permits for users who buy and apply restricted chemicals. ADEM's Mining and Nonpoint Source Section (NPS) provides pre-logging inspections and advise to land owners upon request.
PUBLIC WATER SUPPLY
ADEM Water Supply Branch,
In Alabama, 3.5 million people drink public water. Approximately 700 million gallons are treated each day.5 "Overall compliance by the state's 700 water systems (with EPA standards) was in excess of 90 percent" in 1998 according to ADEM.16
Ironically, chlorine, the disinfectant most often used to treat bacteria in public water, causes contamination itself by combining with trace levels of natural organic compounds to form trihalomethanes (THMs). Alabama's public water compliance for EPA THM standard 1998 was 97 percent.16
Delivery systems for public water can contaminate through cracks, flaking rust, or nodules in pipes that might harbor contaminants. The lead from solder once used at pipe seams can leach out, and Alabama systems have tested for lead in homes built before the 1980s, when the use of lead solder was discontinued. Most metal con-tamination has been found to be in homes where corrosive water reacts with lead or copper pipes or brass. EPA's rule for lead and copper requires systems to be monitored at targeted taps throughout the distribution system and to institute measures to reduce levels of lead and copper where the quality of the water (acidity, alkalinity, temperature, electrical conductivity) causes unacceptable levels of these substances because of corrosion.
ADEM also requires testing for the presence of some 83 inorganic and volatile and synthetic organic chemicals. Approximately 20 percent of all chemical analyses required is done by the ADEM laboratory, with the rest by certified commercial laboratories. Five state bacteriological labs did about 50 percent of the bacteriological analyses in 1998, and the others were done in water system or commercial labs.
By October of 1999, all public drinking water systems are required, under federal and state regulations, to notify the public about the contaminants in the water the system is providing, compliance with federal drinking water standards and the health impacts of any contaminant in excess of the standard. This report is required on an annual basis.
ADEM completed a study in May 1992 of all groundwater sources and found about a third in Alabama have radon above proposed standards (about 500 community systems use well water). Although radon in water is not yet regulated, levels are elevated in the Piedmont area of East Central Alabama and in the northwest section of the state. Forced aeration before delivery can remove the radon.5
PRIVATE SPRINGS AND WELLS
Although ADEM requires that public water supply wells be drilled to a certain depth, encased and cement-grouted, private wells are not regulated in any way. Mortgage companies sometimes require tests on wells or springs before granting loans, and the local health department offices can tell owners how to take samples which are sent to state labs for testing for coliform bacteria, used as an indicator of other bacterial presence.
NONPOINT POLLUTION OR POLLUTED RUNOFF
Nonpoint Section, ADEM Office of Education and Outreach
In evaluating the water quality of the nation's streams, rivers, lake, estuaries, and coastal shores, it has become apparent that regulating the traditional sources or end of pipe sources of pollution have not succeeded in bringing all the nation's waters into compliance with water use classification or in increasing the water use classification. The 1996 water quality report to Congress indicated the status of 14,770 miles of Alabama streams and rivers, 464,011 acres. of lakes, 564 square miles of estuaries, and 50 coastal shore miles Although 100% of the Gulf of Mexico shoreline was found to fully comply with its designated use only 62% of rivers and streams, 66% of reservoirs, and 27% of estuaries fully complied with their designated use. This was true of the rest of the country also, despite the billions of dollars spent on advanced treatment at municipal wastewater treatment plants and of industrial effluents.
While these sources were once the major causes to water pollution, the major source of uncontrolled water pollution is now polluted runoff. When it rains, water will transport contaminants, either physically or as dissolved or chemically altered material, directly to streams and rivers or to storm drains which discharge into them. Runoff from our urban streets and parking lots, parks and golf courses, residential areas, construction, agricultural and silviculture activities etc. increase the contaminant load in our streams and rivers. In the spring of 1998, Vice President Gore announced a proposal to address polluted runoff in his Clean Water Action Plan (CWAP). This plan requires EPA and the Department of Agriculture to work together and look at water pollution from a "holistic" watershed approach and to examine all sources of possible water pollution within the water-shed and develop a plan for improving water quality by water-shed. Congress in its FY 99 budget appropriated funds to implement the clean water action plan. ADEM has started to work with other agencies charged by the Vice President to develop a comprehensive plan.
The Nonpoint Section of the Office of Education and Outreach operates a voluntary program to cope with polluted runoff. A grant program using Federal 319 funds is utilized to assess the impact of polluted runoff on Alabama's waterways, to develop polluted runoff strategies for localized watersheds as well as a state wide polluted runoff plan. Funds are also used to construct best management practices (BMPs) demonstration projects and to educate both public institutions and private citizens on the prevention and remediation of sources of polluted runoff.
The Clean Water Action Plan and the requirement for MS4 permits will be the major emphasis on water pollution for the near future. We urge citizens to become informed about the clean water action plan for the protection of their local watershed and the MS4 permit process for their area if applicable. Both the Clean Water Action Plan and the MS4 permitting process have requirements for citizen participation.
Generally, waste put into or on the ground can be divided into household, industrial, construction/demolition, rubbish, hazardous, infectious, and radioactive waste. Industrial and drilling waste can also be injected into wells if in compliance with the UIC program managed by the groundwater branch of ADEM.
County Commissions, City Governments
ADEM's Solid Waste Branch,
For hauling/storage: Alabama Department of Public Health,
Household waste must be disposed of in municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills with permits from ADEM. These facilities are owned/operated by city or county governments or private business. Alabama law authorizes municipalities and counties to provide for collection and disposal of solid waste but does not require mandatory collection. In addition, the local governing body must grant or deny approval of new or modified landfill permits within their jurisdiction. MSW landfills also accept nonhazardous industrial waste and construction/demolition waste.
The lack of mandatory collection or enforcement of mandatory collection requirement exacerbates the illegal dumping problem in Alabama. Enforcement against illegal dumping was once difficult unless a witness that had actually observed the dumping was available. In 1997 the Alabama Legislature passed Senate Bill 168 which allows the use of names found on bills, bank statements, or other documents found in accumulations of garbage to be used in a court of law for the prosecution of violations. Both ADEM and the public health department have authority to enforce against illegal dumping of household waste.
The U.S. EPA promulgated rules October 9, 1991, commonly referred to as "Subtitle D" regulations governing municipal solid waste landfills. These rules, Part 257-Part 258, became effective October 9, 1993, for large landfills and April 9, 1994, for small landfills (100 tpd or less). The Solid Waste Branch revised rules, made application to Region IV of EPA, and received federal approval for the solid waste program in March of 1994. Since that time, MSW landfills in the state have reduced from over 90 to less than 30. Currently, every operating MSW landfill in the state of Alabama is in compliance with all applicable state and federal design criteria, which includes liners, leachate collection systems, as well as water quality monitoring systems. Currently over 5 million tons of waste are disposed annually in our MSW landfills. MSW landfills today are fewer in number; however, they tend to be much larger than their predecessors.17
ADEM requires that construction/ demolition material be disposed of in a facility with a permit from ADEM. Construction/demolition landfills cannot accept any other waste types, i.e. household or industrial waste, unless specifically approved. There are currently over 175 construction/demolition and industrial landfills with permits in the state of Alabama. Industrial landfills may accept nonhazardous industrial waste and construction/demolition debris, but not household waste, i.e. garbage.
In addition, waste such as uncontaminated concrete, soil, brick, waste asphalt paving, ash resulting from the combustion of untreated wood, rock, yard trimmings, leaves, stumps, limbs, and similar materials are not regulated by the Solid Waste Branch and may be disposed at a facility without a permit.
ADEM's Hazardous Waste Branch,
In 1997, Alabama industries generated 457, 492 tons of hazardous waste (1997 Biennial Report) as compared to 1,409,582 tons generated in 1995 (1995 Biennial Report). Nationally Alabama ranks 16' in quantity generated and 24`" for the number of Large Quantity Generators (LQGs). There are currently nine commercial facilities for handling waste off-site, including two for reclaiming solvents, one for batteries, and one hazardous waste landfill.17
In the late 1980's and early 1990's, the Chemical Waste Management landfill in Emelle, Alabama was a source of controversy since it was the largest hazardous waste landfill in the United States and also accepted waste from out of the state. The Alabama Legislature reacted to this controversy by passing the 1989 Holley bill, which prohibited other states from shipping hazardous waste to Alabama unless those states meet certain responsibilities for managing hazardous waste within their own borders. That same year Alabama required pre-approval of all waste streams targeted for disposal at commercial facilities in the state, and required Superfund and EPA cleanup waste to meet "land ban" treatment requirements. (Federal land ban law required treatment before hazardous waste could be buried, but Superfund and EPA-mandated cleanup waste was exempt.) In 1991, the Alabama Legislature increased taxes on the disposal of waste at hazardous waste landfills and incinerators. The fees were differential and were set much higher for waste generated out-of-state than waste generated in-state. The Holley Bill, the requirement to pretreat Superfund or EPA cleanup waste and the differential fees were eventually declared unconstitutional in federal court because of the interstate commerce clause. Although actions by the Alabama Legislature were overturned by the federal courts, hazardous waste disposal at the Chemical Waste Management landfill at Emelle has decreased to 142,572 tons in 1998 from a high of 790,716 tons in 1989. This is due to increased efforts to minimize waste generation and more on-site remediation/disposal of Superfund and EPA cleanup wastes. ADEM has a mobile-home office on site at Emelle and rotates staff to monitor compliance.
Alabama also inventoried over 600 sites that had potentially hazardous waste handled there, but most have now been found innocuous or have been cleaned up. In 1988, the state established some funding for smaller cleanups and matching funds for Superfund cleanups.
In 1993, the ADEM hazardous waste program received final authorization from the U.S. EPA to implement its AHWMMA corrective action program in lieu of the federal RCRA/HSWA program. This final major component of federal authorization allowed ADEM to fully regulate all aspects of the state hazardous waste program in lieu of the federal program.
Fiscal accountability is becoming increasingly important both for hazardous waste sources, who forever carry liability for wastes produced, and for hazardous waste managers who may have facilities in several states and might use the same collateral as bond for each.
ADEM's Solid Waste Branch,
Anyone who generates infectious (largely medical) waste must have a plan for disposal approved by ADEM. Most incinerate or autoclave infectious waste before disposal. Some are considering chemical treatment of waste. Any such waste not incinerated must be shredded or rendered unrecognizable-an aesthetic requirement.
ADEM requires landfills to have plans for recognizing and rejecting hazardous and red-bagged medical waste, and has an agreement with 46 incinerator equipped hospitals to dispose of abandoned or improperly-treated waste.19 ADEM attempts to educate infectious-waste producers about proper disposal, and checks some clinics, veterinary and doctors' offices yearly.
LOW-LEVEL RADIOACTIVE WASTE
Radiation Control, Alabama Department of Public Health,
The federal government disposes of high-level radioactive waste, and some lowlevel that is produced by federal agencies. Federal laws passed in 1980 and 1986 require each state to dispose of low-level radioactive waste generated within its boundaries (largely from nuclear power facilities, medical, manufacturing and research activities). South Carolina presently operates a disposal facility that receives wastes from other states. Alabama is part of a state compact that selected South Carolina to be a regional site for disposal of low-level radioactive waste.
The increase in fees for disposal charged by the South Carolina facility has spurred waste minimization and waste reduction as well as disposal methods. These changes have reduced the need for a new landfill at this time.
ADEM, Air Division,
When Alabama's Air Pollution Control Act was passed in 1971, few industries had pollution control equipment and Birmingham was probably one of the four most polluted cities in the nation (calculated as a combination of emissions and poor dispersion characteristics) with total particulate levels (TSP) of an annual geometric mean of over 260 micrograms per cubic meter (EPA standard was 75). Birmingham's level had dropped to the 60 microgram range in 1991 and particulate emissions from smoke-stacks had dropped over 90 percent statewide.20/4
"In 1997, when nonattainment area designations (areas failing to meet national ambient air quality standards, NAAQS) were mandated by the federal Clean Air Act Amendments, 14 areas in Alabama were so designated for particulates, sulfur dioxide and ozone." 20/4 The EPA has also established standards for carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and lead, the last of which was exceeded by a secondary lead in Leeds, Jefferson County.21/7 In 1998, all areas of the state are in compliance with all NAAQS except for Jefferson and Shelby counties which exceed the ozone standard 4 to 6 times a year.22
EPA lowered the NAAQS for particulate matter to 15 micro-grams on an annual basis using only particulate size less than 2.5 microns in size as the measurement and ozone NAAQS was reduced from 0.12 to 0.08 parts per million (ppm). Until instruments capable of measuring the new particulate standard are in use and three years of data have been obtained (2003), ADEM will not know if there are new areas of nonattainment for particulate. EPA is scheduled to designate areas of ozone nonattainment by July 2000. Mobile and Montgomery in addition to Jefferson and Shelby counties may become nonattainment. Reductions in emissions from automobiles as new automobiles replace old, sale of cleaner gasoline and reduction of NOX emissions from large boilers will be the primary tools used to attain the new standard in Alabama.
ADEM has been developing an air toxics program since 1982.20/4 The 1990 Clean Air Act amendments, the first changes to the federal low in 13 years, requires EPA to issue "maximum achievable control technology" (MACT) standards, within 10 years for sources that emit 10 tons per year of some 188 listed chemicals, or 25 tons combined listed pollutants. In addition to MACT, AADEM regulates air toxics by including special provisos in the permits and subsequent authorizations to operate. These could include emission limitations on raw materials required operation parameters, process and air pollution control monitoring equipment, etc.23
Jefferson County operates a local air pollution program through its county health department, and Huntsville operates a city program, but ADEM has ultimate responsibility to see that the NAAQS are met.
CUMULATIVE REGIONAL EMISSIONS
Under the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, EPA must monitor a range of toxic pollutants in urban areas of more than 250,000 population to identify which pollutants in those areas present the greatest risk, not limited to carcinogenicity. Within five years it must propose specific actions designed to reduce by 75 percent the cancer risks from urban sources. Although EPA has published a report providing estimated emissions by 1990 by census tract, EPA has not proposed specific actions designed to reduce cancer risks from urban source. Since over 50 percent of the emissions of concern are from commercial products and auto-mobile emissions, regulation will be at the national level.
Alabama operates acid precipitation collection stations in Tallassee and Mobile. An advisory committee primarily made of industry, advised ADEM on the inventory of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. STAR (State Acid Rain Advisory Committee) indicated in 1986 the electric power generation industry is a major industrial source of sulfur dioxide emission in Alabama.21/13 The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 required reductions in sulfur dioxides and nitrogen oxides at TVA's Colbert Steam Plant and Alabama Power's Wilsonville facility in 1995. Most of the other 10 coal-fired generating plants will be required to reduce emissions by 2000.
Acid rain was the first problem to be viewed as regional in nature. ADEM is a member of the Southern Appalachian Mountains Initiative (SAMI), whose members represent eight state agencies (Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, North Caroling, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia), federal agencies, industry, academia and the general public. SAMI's goals are to target problems such as acid rain that exist in the Southern Appalachians and to recommend pollution control options to correct those problems through scientific studies. SAMI offers and opportunity for all individuals within the Southeast to share in the development of control strategies aimed at reducing air pollution in the Southern Appalachians.
INDOOR AIR POLLUTION
Community Environmental Protection,
The Health Department can do an asbestos survey or analyze bulk samples for private citizens (personnel will instruct how to collect and send samples). Due to budget constraints, the Department no longer samples indoor air quality upon request. The Department continues to provide information on indoor air and can provide a list of contractors that do indoor air sampling.
The Health Department still routinely analyzes children's blood for elevated lead levels and will assist in the investigation of its cause. Using a surface instrument, the Department can also get readings on lead in paint and give instructions on the best way to handle the problem.
Alabama Department of Public Health,
Next to smoking, radon is considered the second most frequent contributor to lung cancer. Radon gas occurs naturally in certain geological formations and seeps into air in building through foundation cracks and sometimes water vapor. Limited home testing was done in a pilot program of the Radiation Division of the State Health Department a few years ago. They then mapped areas prone to radon-generally Madison and Limestone Counties. There are currently no regulations of radon in Alabama, but citizens can call the toll free number for information and can purchase kits for testing.
In the early 90's, ADEM's Water Division completed a study for radon in all community groundwater sources and found a third have radon above the EPA proposed guidelines, particularly in the Piedmont section of east central Alabama and an area in the northwest corner of the state. About 500 community water systems use wells, and those systems with high levels were notified. Radon evaporates from surface water and can be removed from well water before delivery by aeration. EPA has not established standards for radon in public drinking water although regulations are still anticipated.16
Regulations require that any demolition operation or removal of asbestos containing material notify ADEM at least 10 weekdays prior to the first day of demolition or the first day that the asbestos containing material is to be disturbed. Material must be removed and disposed of according to regulations and all regulated removals involving friable asbestos containing materials must be performed by a company certified to do so by ADEM.
Alabama required that asbestos be removed from public primary and secondary schools in the late 80's.
OFFICE OF EDUCATION AND OUTREACH
ADEM, Telephone Number (334) 394-4360
The Office of Education and Outreach (OEO) was formed when ADEM combined a number of non-regulatory functions. This office provides assistance, through the Pollution Prevention Unit, on recycling and pollution prevention and facilitates the Waste Reduction and Technology Transfer (WRATT) Program. This was developed in conjunction with the Tennessee Valley Authority, and allows retired engineers and scientists provide confidential waste reduction assessments, upon request, to state industries. The Nonpoint Source Unit provides assistance on controlling nonpoint source pollution to the agricultural, silvicultural, mining and urban communities through education and funding for demonstration projects.
The Ombudsman's Office operates a toll free number to answer questions about the environment in Alabama, and to provide assistance to small business and citizens. If you are not sure about whom to call regarding an environmental issue, the Ombudsman can direct you.
Through the OEO, ADEM provides speakers for civic clubs, professional groups and other organizations, training seminars on environmental issues and educational materials for the general public, businesses, teachers and students.
ADEM is often criticized for not inspecting sources monthly or even daily; for relying on industry self monitoring, for not monitoring all stream segments every year for every possible chemical and for not monitoring a particular neighbor-hood for all possible air contaminants. While ADEM inspects facilities in accordance with the frequency established by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and monitoring sites/ frequency are also compliance with EPA requirements, many citizens think checks should be made more often.. As with any agency, the number of employees and the resulting products are related to funding.
ADEM FUNDING: STATE vs. FEDERAL
ADEM has four sources of funding: state general fund appropriations, federal grant dollars from the EPA, fees charged for services and fines resulting from enforcement action. As the following chart demonstrates the amount of funding ADEM receives from the general fund has steadily decreased.24
Alabama also receives less state general funds for environmental programs that any other state in the southeast. Decline in purchasing power is shown in the following table.
ADEM General Fund Appropriation
ADEM General Fund Appropriation
The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 require the air program to charge emission fees or the fees will go to the federal treasury. The air fees can only be spent on implementing the requirements of the 1990 Clean Air Amendments. Other programs are allowed to charge fees for permits review and certifications to reimburse expenditures but are not authorized by state law to charge other fees such as emission and disposal fees. Administrative fines received by the department are refunded to the legislature after deduction of costs of the enforcement action.
While there are no easy decisions about how to spend state tax dollars, increased monitoring of air and water pollutants, and increased inspections of sources of pollution, as well as other activities requested by the public can not occur without increased funding. This funding must come from either the state general fund on from increased fees on industry which can only be authorized by the legislature.
ADEM REGULATORY AUTHORITY
STATUTES THAT ADEM ADMINISTERS
AREAS WHERE ADEM DOES NOT
Water quantity/water withdrawals - ADECA, Office of Water Resources
Septic tanks - Alabama Department of Public Health
Fish consumption advisories - Alabama Department of Public Health
Oyster bed closures - Alabama Department of Public Health
Swimming beach closure - Alabama Department of Public Health
Indoor Air - Alabama Department of Public Health
Lead paint removal - Alabama Department of Public Health
Pesticide application - Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries
Zoning - Municipalities and counties that have obtained authority from legislature.
Noise pollution - Local ordinances adopted by municipalities or counties that have sought authority from legislature.
OTHER SOURCES OF ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT
MORE NUMBERS TO CALL
As a result of the 1985 chemical release in Bhopal, India, the Congress passed the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know ACT. If you want to know about a chemical spill in your community, what toxins you might be exposed to at your plant and the health effects, what potentially hazardous chemical are routinely released in your community (by facilities with 10 or more employees that manufacture or use more than "threshold " amounts of these chemicals), call your Local Emergency Planning Committee or call:
If you have a computer and a modem, you may call up the national data base on the National Library of Medicine's TOXNET system (nominal access fee). A public Library in your county will have, or can get for you, a microfiche of the latest Toxic Release Inventory.
As more American homes have computers and Internet access, traditional sources of environmental information as well as new sources are placing more information on the environment. We have listed only a few; a search on the Internet will reveal many more but these will provide the basic information.
1. September 14, 1998 letter from Jim Warr to Newspaper Editor.
2. Alabama's Clean Water 1972-1991, ADEM, April 1992.
3. Alabama Environmental Laws Text - Environmental Law in Alabama.
4. Findley, Roger W. and Farber, Daniel H., Environmental Law, (West Publishing Co., 1988).
5. Nunn interview with Catherine Lamar, Public Affairs Officer, ADEM, 8/24/92.
6. UIC information furnished by ADEM Water Division.
7. Safety On Tap (League of Women Voters Educational Fund, 1987).
8. ADEM - Alabama Clean Water Success Stories, ADEM 1998.
9. ADEM, Environmental Update, Issue 10, "ADEM Lands Federal Nonpoint Source Grant."
10. Alabama Department of Public Health, "Onsite Sewage Disposal Plan," December 15, 1995.
11. Nunn telephone interview with Kim Rice, Solid Waste, Alabama Department of Public Health, May 1992.
12. LWV interview with Leigh Pegues, Director, ADEM.
13. March 1999 data from ADEM Groundwater Branch.
14. Dixon, Jennifer, "USDA Too Easy on Erosion, Environmentalists Charge," Montgomery Advertiser, 12/30/91.
15. Nunn telephone interview with Ken McNabb, Plant Protection and Pesticide Management, Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, June 1992.
16. Data from ADEM Water Supply Branch, April 1999.
17. Data From ADEM Land Division, April 1999.
18. ADEM, Environmental Update, Issue 8, Grusnick, Richard, "New Air Law to 'Touch All Americans.'"
19. ADEM, Environmental Update, Issue 15.
20. ADEM, Environmental Update, Issue 5, "20 Years of Environmental Progress."
21. Alabama Environmental Planning Council, An Environmental Protection Plan for the State of Alabama. February 1989.
22. Data from ADEM Air Division.
23. "1997 Annual Air Quality Report," ADEM.
24. Data from ADEM, April 1999.
1875 - State Board of Health established Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
1939 - Alabama Soil and Water Conservation Commission
State Oil and Gas Board
1948 - Federal Stream Pollution Law
1955 - Federal clean air legislation, the first dealing solely with air?pollution and the predecessor of the 1970 amendments that are called the Clean Air Act.
1956 - Federal Water Pollution Control Law
1962 - Rachel Carson's Silent Spring
1964 - Wilderness Act ( declares a policy of securing and preserving wilderness areas)
1965 - Federal Water Quality Act ( first federal water quality standards)
1967 - Alabama Water Quality Criteria and Use Classifications Regulations ( classified surface waters according to use and provide a guide for determining waste treatment and industrial discharge standards)
1969 - US National Environmental Policy Act (stated national objectives including man's harmonious coexistence with nature, set the basis for Environmental Impact Statements [ EIS detailing consequences of actions that could affect quality of environment and alternatives considered], and provided means for public information and participation.)
Alabama Solid Waste Disposal Act (passed after a 1963 survey showed 408 of 411 solid waste disposal sites in Alabama were "little more than open-burning dumps").
1970 - Earth Day
Federal Water Quality Improvement Act Clean Air Amendments (established national ambient air quality standards - NAAQS - for air pollutants that endanger public health or welfare)
Noise Pollution and Abatement Act (investigated effect of noise on health and welfare)
1971 - Alabama Air Pollution Control Act (Set up the Air Pollution Control branch of the State Health Department and gave it authority to regulate sources of pollution, and set up a permitting system and penalties.)
Alabama Water Pollution Control Act (revised '73, '79)
1972 - Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments (set up permitting and enforcement aimed at "fishable and swimmable" waters by 1983 and elimination of pollutant discharges into navigable waters by 1985.) With its subsequent amendment, this legislation is most often called "The Clean Water Act."
Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act
Alabama air regulations (prohibited open burning at solid waste disposal sites).
Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA amended the 1947 law by allowing the US Department of Agriculture to restrict use of some pesticides, cancel those considered a unreasonable risk - DDT, aldrin, dieldren, kepone, chlordane and heptachlor - and require proper labeling, amended '75, '78, '80, '88)
Coastal Zone Management Act (seeks to achieve wise use of coastal land and water resources by providing monetary assistance to states to develop and administer management programs)
1973 - Alabama Water Pollution Control Act (added criminal liability provisions)
1974 - Freedom of Information Act
Safe Drinking Water Act (amended in 1977 and in 1986)
1975 - Fishery Conservation and Management Act
1976 - Alabama Coastal Area Management Act
Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA asked that the generation of hazardous waste be reduced or eliminated as expeditious as possible, and provided that treatment, storage and disposal minimize present and future threats to environment, authorized permitting and the formation of state programs)
Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA requires industry to develop data on environmental effects of chemicals, gives government authority to prevent unreasonable, particularly imminent risks, requires testing by manufacturers, and requires notice to EPA before new chemicals are manufactured or a chemical is used in a new way.)
Federal Land Policy and Management Act (States policy on the management of public land, and promotes concepts of "multiple use" and "sustained yield.")
1977- Clean Water Act Amendments
Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (imposes regulatory restrictions on strip mining, including restoration of the land to approximately its original state)
The Alaskan pipeline went into operation
The Endangered Species Act
The Alabama Legislature set standards for the quality of drinking water supplied by public systems.
Reauthorization and amendments to the federal Clean Air Act
1978 - Love Canal
Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) Alabama Hazardous Wastes Management and Minimization Act
Alabama Pretreatment Regulations
1970 - Alabama National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit Regulations (NPDES)
EPA promulgates (MCL) for total trihalomethanes (THMs) in public water supplies.
Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act ( the Atomic Energy Act of 1946 gave the federal government monopoly on nuclear power. It was amended in 1954 to allow licensing of power facilities. Before 1960 LLRW was placed in drums and dropped into the sea, later put in common landfills, and then for seven years disposed in Nevada, Washington and South Carolina which eventually closed or restricted use of those sites. The 1980 law made each sate responsible for disposal of LLRW generated in its borders.)
1980 - Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA established the Superfund for cleaning hazardous waste sites and set up a National Contingency Plan to minimize damage from oil and hazardous substance discharges.)
1982 - The Alabama Department of Environmental Management was formed. (The state's program was reorganized with the aim of coordinating its response to multi-disciplinary environmental issues. Overseeing the resulting umbrella is a seven-member appointed commission which has broad powers including the mission to develop state environmental policy, adopt, modify, repeal of suspend rules, select and advise the department director, and hear and determine appeals.)
1986 - Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments. Reauthorization of the Safe Drinking Water Act with mandate for lead ban, more standards, and more enforcement.
Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act. (SARA amended CERCLA to allow citizens access to information about hazardous chemicals in their communities, and to set up community plans for chemical emergencies.)
Radon Gas and Indoor Air quality Research Act
Asbestos Hazardous Emergency Response Act
The Environmental Planning Council, created by the legislature, began work on the state's first comprehensive environmental plan.
The legislature granted ADEM authority to levy administrative penalties against violators.
1987 - Water Quality Act of 1987: Amendments to the Clean Water Act (Section 402(p) required implementation of a comprehensive two phase approach for addressing storm water discharges under the NPDES program.)
Alabama Water Pollution Control Authority (SRF)
1988 - Alabama Underground Storage Tank Laws, (established a trust fund, required fees of tank owners, authorized ADEM to make and enforce tank regulations).
Alabama Lead Ban Act
1989 - Holley Bill (prohibited other states from shipping hazardous waste to Alabama for commercial disposal unless they have met certain responsibilities for hazardous waste in their own states. )
Alabama NPS management program approved by EPA.
The Alabama Management Commission adopted regulations that required preapproval of hazardous waste coming into Alabama.
Alabama entered into agreement with South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and North Carolina giving access to hazardous waste facilities in the five states for 20 years.
The legislature declared a two-year moratorium (except as relieved by the Health Department in declared emergencies) on siting or expanding landfills until a statewide solid waste plan could be developed. The act also allowed local governing jurisdictions quasi-zoning authority over the siting of solid waste management facilities including public input and assessments of socioeconomic impacts in siting.
1990 - Reauthorization and Amendments to the federal Clean Air Act
1991- The legislature authorized and environmental license plate. Funds from the sale of the plate were required to be spent on environmental education.
The Alabama Environmental Management Commission establishes a Outstanding Alabama Water classification for greater protection of pristine stream segments.
EPA promulgates rules for municipal solid waste landfills requiring liners and leachate collection systems. The regulations become effective in October of 1993.
Honey Bill ruled unconstitutional by U. S. Supreme Court.
1993 - Volunteer monitoring of state's water quality initiated?as a educational project of ADEM's NPS program. This volunteer effort led to the formation of Alabama Waterwatch, a volunteer water monitoring program in Alabama.
ADEM authorized by EPA to implement AHWMMA corrective action program in lieu of federal RCRA/HSWA program.
1995 - Lawsuits filed against EPA for failure to require 20 states, including Alabama, to develop total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) and upgrade streams classified as agricultural and industrial.
1996 - Safe Drinking Water Act reauthorized ( established source water protection program requirements, a drinking water state revolving loan fund, and required consumer confidence reports.
1997 - Legislature passes the Alabama Lead Reduction Act. (This legislation provides for the certification, training and licensing of lead abatement contractors and workers.)
Legislature approved Drinking Water Finance Authority and State Revolving Fund for Drinking Water (DWSRF) ( Fund will provide low cost loans to build new public drinking water systems and expand old ones.)
1998 - President Clinton announces Clean Water Action Plan (CWAP) which focuses on unmet objectives of Clean Water ACT and requires the environmental management Agency and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in each state to jointly convene a process to implement steps toward the CWAP.
Alabama Environmental Management Commission adopts regulations requiring the sale of "Clean Gas" from June 1, 1998 to September 15, 1998 in Jefferson and Shelby counties to address ozone nonattainment in those counties.
SOURCES FOR CHRONOLOGY
1. Findley, Roger W. and Farber, Daniel A. Environmental Law, West Publishing Co., 1988.
2. Stoloff, Neil. Regulating the Environment: An Overview of Federal Environmental Law, Oceana Publications, Inc., 1991.
3. Environmental Quality 1983, 14th Annual Report of the Council of Environmental Quality.
4. Alabama's Clean Water 1972-1991, ADEM, April 1992.
5. Data submitted by ADEM
This publication was made possible by a grant from the League of Women Voters of Alabama Education Fund.