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WasteWatch 2024: Alabama

We welcome you to “Sweet Home Alabama”, for our 3rd week along the election trail.

The state of Alabama lies along the southern gulf shores, home to vast forests and a major river system that supports a diverse ecosystem. Despite this, Alabama has had to tackle an array of environmental challenges such as deteriorating water quality due to industrial pollutants such as PFAS and coal ash. Additionally, the management of hazardous waste remains a significant concern.

Here is what you need to know.
The Basics:
– Life Expectancy: 73.2, 47th in the nation.
– Population: 5.07M
– Land area of 50,633 miles, and a water area of 1,773 square miles.
– Has roughly 132,000 miles of stream and river channels.

Environmental Challenges: 
– Industrial waste pollution/ PFAS/ coal ash
– Hazardous waste disposal
– Pesticide disposal leading to groundwater contamination
– Drinking water contamination

Recent environmental coverage in Alabama
– 21 million tons of coal ash, containing toxic chemicals such as mercury,
cadmium and arsenic, covers an area of about 451 football fields just above
Mobile Bay. (Inside Climate News, January. 2024)
– Over 38,500 gallons of toxic PFAS foam (AFFF) are sent to Emelle, the largest
hazardous waste landfill in the United States. (PFAS Project Lab, October.
– Alabama ranked last in tap water quality (CNBC, July. 2023)
– Numerous rural water utilities face severe contamination, including
carcinogens and toxins harmful to the liver, kidneys, neurological and
reproductive systems (Montgomery Advertiser, Oct. 2021)
– In the Mobile area, 3 different carcinogenic contaminants exceeded the
Environmental Working Group’s health guidelines (Environmental Working
Group, 2021)
(see more in the comments)

Organizations advocating for the environment and water: 
– Alabama Rivers Alliance
– Alabama Rural Water Association
– Alabama Department of Environmental Management
– Alabama Environmental Council
– Black Warrior Riverkeeper
– Alabama Water Institute

Environmental journalists and reporters to follow:
Dennis Pillion
Pat Byington
Lee Hedgepeth

Next Steps: 
Alabama urgently needs to tackle its water contamination issues by enforcing testing of both public and private water supplies to protect the health and well-being of all Alabamians. Additionally, we would like to see  implementation of new policies and adoption of innovative technologies to eliminate toxic and hazardous waste such as PFAS and coal ash, thereby preventing further contamination to water resources. In conjunction with this, addressing existing disparities in clean water access is crucial, especially in disadvantaged areas

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