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How clean is the lake?

by Katie Shaddix last modified August 05, 2008 01:18 PM

LOGAN MARTIN LAKE — Lakeside Although PCB levels in fish samples collected from Logan Martin Lake continue to drop, the lake water fails to meet federal and state water quality standards.





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Water Purity: How clean is the lake?
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By David Atchison
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07-20-2008
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LOGAN MARTIN LAKE —
Lakeside
Although PCB levels in fish samples
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collected from Logan Martin Lake
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continue to drop, the lake water fails
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to meet federal and state water quality
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standards.
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Environmental officials say Logan
Martin Lake continues to be placed
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Logan Martin Lake remains on the
state’s 303d list of quality-impaired

on the 303d list of quality-impaired
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waters, and it could take years before
waters, and it could take years before
it’s removed from the list. Bob
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the water quality of the lake improves
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and it is removed from the list.
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The lake does not have sufficient water quality to meet its designated uses

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Scott Hughes, a spokesman for the Alabama Department of
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Environmental Management, said Logan Martin Lake remains on the list
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of impaired waters for basically two reasons:
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“The first reason is the increase in nutrient levels,” Hughes said. “The

second is Alabama Department of Health consumption advisory for PCBs.
Although we are seeing decreased levels of PCBs in fish, there are still
fish consumption advisories.”
NUTRIENTS
It is the nutrient levels in Logan Martin Lake, and many other lakes across

the state, which environmental officials are focusing their attention on.
Hughes explained, a high nutrient level in water does not pose a threat to
humans, but it can be harmful to aquatic life.
Officials say a high nutrient level is a common water quality problem
across the state.

“It’s pretty common in reservoirs,” said April Hall, program director for
Alabama River Alliance, a non-profit group that unites Alabama citizens
in an effort to protect the public’s right to clean, healthy water.
She said high nutrient levels in lakes are associated with land uses — like
pasture and agricultural lands; new developments, which use fertilizers for
landscaping projects, and other urban runoffs.

Other point sources that contribute to the nutrient problem include septic
systems and waste water treatment facilities.
Officials say excess nutrients feed algae, which can lead to low dissolved
oxygen levels in water. That can cause problems for other aquatic life, like
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Daily Home - Water Purity: How clean is the lake?
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fish, especially during the hot summer months.
Hall said it is expensive to rid a lake of algae.
SOURCES OF POLLUTANTS
Terry Young, environmental supervisor for the Alabama State Public

Health office for St. Clair County in Pell City, said there are state
regulations and permitting requirements for the installation of new septic
tanks along Logan Martin Lake.
He said septic tanks and field lines are required to be more than 50 feet
away from the lake.

Young said he’s been with the public health office in Pell City for 30
years and has only seen a handful of septic tanks overflow into the lake.
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Hall said the problem is that, once sewer systems are installed, those
systems are no longer monitored.
She said septic systems can and have overflowed into Alabama reservoirs
as a result of individuals not properly maintaining or cleaning their
residential septic systems every few years. This adds to the elevation of
nutrients in lakes, rivers and streams.
Isabella Trussell, who is the co-chairwoman of the water quality
committee for the Logan Martin Lake Protection Association and who
also helps oversee the water quality monitoring program on the lake for

Alabama Water Watch, said volunteers have tested in the past for bacteria
related to septic systems but did not have any success in locating or
identifying leaky septic systems.
“It took quite a bit of work,” she said. “Really, the best monitoring system
is your neighbor.”

Trussell said that if someone smells sewage from a septic system, they
need to report it to state health officials.
She also pointed to the Pell City Dye Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant
as a source of nutrient problems in Logan Martin Lake.
“When they have a sewer overflow, it goes straight into the lake,” she
said.

Pell City is currently under an ADEM consent order to fix its sewer
problems, but it will take time, money and work to completely eliminate
the problem with the aging sewer system.
“We’re doing the best we can,” said Freddy Hazelwood, Pell City’s water
quality department head.

Hazelwood said the city has done some minor rehabilitation work to the
system as well as installed new lift stations to better handle city sewage.
He said the water quality department also has leased a belt press to help
the city maintain solid removal at the wastewater treatment plant. The Dye
Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant also is being expanded to better handle

the city’s waste.
Hazelwood said it’s been a while since the city has had a sewer overflow
event, but the drought has aided the city in preventing such problems.
REDUCING POLLUTANTS
And while the city is taking steps to help prevent future sewer overflows,

ADEM officials are working on new regulations to restrict permitted
discharges from industries and municipalities into Alabama waters.
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“Permit limits are being tightened,” Hughes said.
He said new regulations regarding the “total maximum daily load” are
currently being developed. The TMDL is basically a cleanup plan for
quality-impaired Alabama rivers, lakes and streams.
“It should be finalized by the end of the year,” Hughes said, adding that
there is a public comment period this fall for the new plan.
“It’s a road map of what needs to be done to improve a watershed
section,” Hughes said.
He said municipalities and companies will have more restricted limits on
discharges…typically wastewater discharges.
Hughes said municipalities and industries, under the proposed regulations,
would have to establish a compliance schedule for the installation of all
proper equipment and treatment technology to meet the new permit limits.
Hall points out that once ADEM establishes a TMDL plan, Logan Martin
Lake can be removed from the 303d list, even though the water quality of
the lake has not changed.
She also said even though ADEM may make recommendations to reduce
non-point sources of pollution in the TMDL plan, there are no laws to
enforce the implementation of those recommendations as there are with
point sources and wastewater treatment facilities.
MONITORING CONTINUES
Hughes said ADEM continues to work toward helping improve water
quality, not only in Lake Logan Martin, but also throughout Alabama.
He said every five years ADEM does extensive monitoring of different
lakes, where water samples are collected, and either field-tested or brought
back to laboratories for testing.
“We have 77,000 miles of river in this state,” Hughes said. “It would be
physically impossible to monitor every year.”
He said water monitoring collections and water quality analysis are
completed along the Coosa and Tallapoosa river systems at the same time.
He believes these watersheds are scheduled for extensive monitor testing
in 2010. The process takes about six months.
PUBLIC PARTICIPATION
State and environmental officials say people can do their part in helping
make their lakes and rivers healthier, and it may only be a matter of public
awareness.
Trussell suggests Logan Martin Lake residents use water from the lake to
fertilize their lawns and gardens instead of spreading new fertilizer on the
ground, which could end up in the lake.
She points out the lake water is already full of nutrients.
Young said residents also should properly maintain their residential septic
tanks.
Property owners should have their septic tanks or septic systems inspected
regularly, and septic tanks generally need to be pumped out every three to
five years.
Hall said residents can also join environmental groups, like the Alabama
River Alliance, to keep abreast of environmental matters that involve
public waterways.
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She further said residents should follow best-management practices by
planting vegetation between the lake and their property, so the vegetation
can act as a buffer and absorb nutrients that would normally flow into the
lake.
Hughes suggests residents adhere to the instructions on fertilizers’ bags,
and Hall said people should not apply fertilizer onto grounds before an
anticipated storm or rain.
Hughes also said it’s good to leave a buffer zone or space between where
fertilizer is applied and the water’s edge.
“It’s not just row crops, but animal farms that contribute to the high levels
of nutrients in lakes and rivers,” Hall added.
Trussell said that even by properly disposing of their pet’s waste people
would help lower the nutrient levels in Lake Logan Martin — if everyone
took part in the effort.
“It’s not the action of just one person, but when you have 250,000, it has
an accumulated effect,” Hughes said.
Hughes said because it’s not solely one person, municipality or company
that is responsible for high levels of nutrients in Logan Martin Lake and
other Alabama lakes and rivers, it’s going to take an effort by everyone to
reduce the levels of nutrients and pollutants in Alabama lakes, rivers and
streams.
About David Atchison
David Atchison is Pell City news editor for The Daily Home.
Contact David Atchison
Phone: 205-884-3400
news@dailyhome.com
E-mail:

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