Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Committee Finds More High Bacteria In Duck Ponds

Fairhope, Alabama. (

duck pond pollution continues

Recently, members of the city's Environmental Committee  resumed testing some storm water ditches and outfalls into the bay for the presence of fecal coliform bacteria -- and found most to be within limits, but one from the duck pond was "thousands of times" over the maximum allowed (104 colonies/100 ml of water).

(The EC has been mostly inactive since early 2013, when a number of its members resigned.)

Such results are not unusual for the ponds in summer, but seemed unusual since testing was done in cool weather in late February (39 - 50 degree temps) and few ducks or geese were present. (The bacteria cannot survive in low temperatures.)

In 2011,  Auburn University biology professor  Dr. Yucheng Feng did scientific testing for the city -- but no follow-up ever began, even though it was recommended to continue to pinpoint precise sources using DNA testing (about $70,000 was the estimated cost at the time).

Dr. Feng concluded both human and animal contamination were present at various points.

Shelton, Gover
Environmental Committee Chairman Gary Gover said he hopes the addition of two new members will allow volunteers to do much of the prekimenary testing themselves -- and save the city thousands of dollars; professionals may eventually be needed to do DNA testing though.

The goal is to pinpoint and eliminate sources of the bacteria, if possible, at municipal beaches and all creeks, gullies and other storm water outfalls.

Possible sources include: animals (cows, geese. pets, etc.) leaking old sewer lines (bluff), septic tanks, boats, agricultural runoff, et al.

Also, the bacteria can sometimes survive on its own in the sand and silt.

He said a year 2000-05 federal study of Fairhope's municipal beach, the National Epidemiological Assessment of Recreational Waters ('NEEAR' for short), found a 20% chance beach users could develop some type of gastro-intestinal illness -- depending on level of contact with sand or water (ingestion?).


duck pond outfall
Committee member Mike Shelton of the Weeks Bay-based Coastal Alabama Water Watch program has been providing the testing equipment needed -- and offered to help train new committee members who may have the time to participate.

Shelton is also a staff member at the Weeks Bay Reserve.

Testing is problematic though (timing essential) since the "first flush" of storm water needs to be sampled from drainage ditches and culverts; and can be hazardous if water volume is high.

The CAWW already monitors beach water quality, but only at scheduled intervals: not the crucial aftermath of rainstorms. The water at the Orange Ave. pier and end of Volanta Ave, is also monitored.


Subsequent to this meeting, the city council formally appointed Tony Pritchett and Ron Allen to the Environmental Committee; hopefully this will help clear up long-standing problems with attaining quorums for meetings by allowing changes to some of the committee's confusing bylaws.

A more convenient time and day for meeting may be selected as well.


Rick Frederick
Rick Frederick, the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program's new community relations manager, explain its new Create a Clean Water Future program to ensure a healthy estuary system.

His goal is to work with private industry, community leaders, and local citizens to ensure they understand the purpose, goals and objectives of the MBNEP.

He passed out copies of their bi-annual newsletter: the Alabama Current Connection. -- and other literature.

A long-time resident of Mobile, Rick now lives in Fairhope; he may apply to join the city's Environmental Committee as well, at some point.

duck pond's primary discharge into bay


Anonymous said...

I thought due to the water fowl being protected the general public is not supposed to feed them?

Anonymous said...

The duck pond is always nasty not because of the ducks it seems like run off and I have never understood why there is a pump in there for aeration but never works . I personally believe it is storm water or sewage runoff
and the ducks always get the blame. The ducks have nothing to do with the problem it is all human error in my opinion