Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Environmental Committee Elects New Chairman

Fairhope, Alabama. (

Shelton left, Gover

At its last meeting, the city council's troubled environmental advisory committee elected a new chairman and welcomed one new member.

Mike Shelton was unanimously selected Chairman to replace outgoing Gary Gover -- and Tony Pritchett was the first-time member.

Shelton is the coastal training coordinator for the Weeks Bay Reserve Foundation and helps monitor local water quality through the 'Alabama Water Watch' program.

According to Gover the committee has not been functioning for over a year due to administrative problems, mostly regarding membership and quorum specifications.

Some members privately express disappointment in the lack of support from the city council.


Among chronic environmental problems highlighted by committee members (not prioritized):

* Duck pond fecal pollution (e coli)
* Municipal beach pollution  (e coli, chemical, etc.)
* Bacteria, chemical and other pollutants in Fly Creek
* Watershed, gully pollutants
* City park issues (drainage, pollution)
* Storm water discharge outfall pollution (bacteria, chemical, etc.)
* Neighborhood drainage/erosion issues: retention ponds and easements not being maintained.
* Bluff erosion
* Beach sand erosion
* Environmental impacts of proposed marina dredging


Graham, Pritchett, Burmeister
Environmental officer Kim Burmeister said city contract-engineer Trey Jinright is "looking at" doing a re-design proposal for the duck ponds, already identified as major source of the excessive fecal contamination sometimes found in beach-area waters after heavy rains.

A new design likely would  discharge all dirty, effluent water through the filter pond on the north side and possibly then through remaining existing wetlands there as well..

Elevations are a major issue though, since the low point (main discharge point) is now in the central-pond area about 150' south.

Earth berms around ponds was suggested as a possible solution to elevation issues by a committee member; electric pumps are also an option.

The possibilty of treating the ponds periodically for bacteria (chlorine?) was also mentioned as a short-term solution.


Members were confused by the current pond design and apparent lack of any drawings/plans for the  array of dams, weirs, and channels that discharges over the main beach -- except for the higher north-pond, which goes through a late-1990s-built  'sand filter wetland pond' on the extreme north end.

One member called the present design a "mystery" for the most part -- and another a "possible health hazard" for beach-goers.                                                  
Main duck pond effluent over beach

Mayor Kant told the Times he himself dug out the ponds (with a backhoe) back in the early 1980s -- under direction of then Mayor Nix -- to expand the park and extend the road northward.

Other long-time residents remember a pump that re-circulated pond-water back up the bluff for further filtration.

Natural springs from the bluff above supply the ponds; the mayor worries about leaking sewage pipes from the old neighborhoods above, too.


The committee also discussed the need for:

 1)  Having members conduct a "systematic survey" of all parks, watersheds, gullies, storm water outfalls, etc. -- to identify potential problems, illicit discharges, etc.

For the first time, this inspection would include private property in subdivisions/neighborhoods looking for malfunctioning or poorly maintained (by HOA's) retention/detention ponds.

2)  Having members test storm water themselves after rains (critical "first flush") utilizing ADEM "Water Watch" training/equipment

3) Tracing pollutants to their exact sources upstream, possibly utilizing professional DNA testing.


The committee decided to make inquiries to relevant city departments about potential pond modifications and printing more educational material for citizens/visitors in anticipation of next year's budgeting process (just now beginning).

Several members complained the morning meeting time interfered with work schedules, but changes would have to be made via a city ordinance.

Canada geese

duck pond map


Anonymous said...

I’m not just picking on this article but all the articles in general and the picture they paint of Fairhope. Fairhope is like an attractive little girl who is jealous of everyone else and everything else. She tries so hard to be tops at everything she turns herself into an ugly little duckling. Claim to be a biking community, but with the way they’ve done it bike at your own risk. The new mediums on Fairhope Ave have made getting in and out of the post office extremely difficult. Could go on and on. Anyone else like to turn the clock back to what Fairhope was 20 years ago?

Anonymous said...

Put a top hat on him and Gary would be a great Abe Lincoln impersonator.

Anonymous said...

huh? turn the flower clock back ... ?