Saturday, July 25, 2015

Environmetalists Debate Beach Pollution Issues

Fairhope, Alabama. (

Environmental Committee, June 2015

The city's Environmental Advisory Committee met twice recently to develop recommendations to the city council in time for next year's budget-cycle addressing many issues facing the city.

Various pollution/water-quality ones were discussed; but the most-pressing was thought to be the health hazard created by chronic Canada goose overpopulation at waterfront parks.

The long-standing issue flared up again last month when human-looking feces were noticed on Magnolia beach on June 6th, prompting speculation and numerous "viral" tv news reports and videos; but when tested later was found to be 80% of goose origins -- and the rest sea gulls and other animals (0% human).
Magnolia Beach evidence

(A close-up frame from the video taken by Elliot Gordon appears at right.)

At least two studies done in the last decade cited evidence of various infections in humans from pathogens after swimming at the beaches.

Runoff from inland homes, streets, and farms (cows, fertilizers, etc.) were also areas of concern in past studies.


Also discussed at this first meeting in June was the possible re-design of the "treatment pond" north of the main duck ponds so that it could handle (filter) higher volume before it goes into the bay. City engineer Jinright is working on a preliminary survey and elevations, members were told.

Chairman Mike Shelton at right
A re-design of the main ponds themselves is also possible, to direct more outflow north through the treatment pond; this could prove costly though, according to Public Works officials.

(The committee also discussed how to better communicate the real "facts" to the public, BP fine money distribution -- and voted to change its meeting time to later in the day (3PM) to accommodate members who had work conflicts.)


After a lengthy discussion, committee members also recommended unanimously the city council put up signs in the duck pond area prohibiting the feeding of geese and other birds -- and explaining it is because of serious health hazards (feces/bacteria) to children/adults ... and the geese themselves who become domesticated and too dependent on humans.

Canada geese overpopulation
Members conceded it would be a controversial step and enforcement would be problem; but the serious health issues are the overriding concern.   One said just putting the signs up could reduce feeding (and feces) by 80%.  

Still under discussion are other methods such as treating grass with a "food coloring" the geese find distasteful, mowing higher, and less watering and fertilizers to limit new-grass growth.

Apparently the geese prefer the young new shoots of grass over the older tougher ones.

(The Times has learned an experimental, flashing optical device designed specifically for Canada geese dispersal without harming them is to be tried as well)


Gilespie, July meeting
General superintendent Gilespie and Public Works director Fidler attended the committee's next monthly meeting in July -- to give requested progress reports and try to answer questions.

Gilespie told the committee plans are in the works to dig out city marina slips in Fly Creek: a private contractor will be hired to dig out the "spoils",  put it in leakproof dumpsters and transport it to a landfill -- possibly the city's own C and D landfill.

(Sometimes the material can be "laid out" exposed to the sun for about a month to let uv rays neutralize contaminants.)

Contractors will also be responsible for "doing it right" and all the necessary testing and permitting required.

There are no current plans for dredging at the main pier marina at this time: that would be the joint responsibility of the city and Rick Gambino, the new restaurant/marina operator.


July meeting. Fidler at right
Public works director Fidler then gave an update on the many issues facing the duck ponds and municipal beaches: She said the ponds are not functioning way they were designed ... to direct the outflow through the wetlands at the extreme northern end ... which should be filtering and treating the water before it discharges out into into the bay. Currently water is "spilling over dams" far short ... and going directly out into the bay over the beach, she said.

She said she had already met with city (contracted) engineer Trey Jinright (Jade Consulting) as requested by the committee at an earlier meeting, -- and he thought the wetland treatment pond on the north-end would need to be expanded at least (That pond was added for that purpose in about 1999). 

But, because each pond is at a different elevation -- and the low point is near the middle-part  (Northwest side) not at the  far north end -- earthen berms or other devices may need to be constructed to make all water discharge through the northern treatment pond.

Fidler suggested the committee may want to recommend sufficient funding be put in next year's budget ("Beach fund") for the necessary surveys and engineering work: "How do we solve the elevation issues? We need a survey first ... won't be an inexpensive fix ... ."

Member Ron Allen, a former EPA official,  called it a "serious issue" and said the council needed to "get it done' and start by funding the necessary surveys and studies   -- and plan to implement solutions over the next 2 to 3 years.

Gary Gover at right
By their next meeting, the committee asked Fidler to get back with Jinright for some rough cost estimates to do the surveying and engineering work -- plus some possible final solutions such as changing pond elevations (berms?), relocating storm drains from the bluff above, diverting natural springs, enlarging the treatment pond, and additional aeration. 

The committee would then formulate its formal requests/recommendations to take directly to the mayor and council.

Since the mayor has already started composing next year's budget and time is running short, a special meeting could be called before the regularly scheduled one in August.

(Around $10K was one figure mentioned for preliminary work.)


ponds drain over beach now

July environmental committee


Anonymous said...

OK, got too long to read, but you are seriously telling me that they want to tell people NOT to feed the geese, sea gulls, etc.? I mean this is the best attraction that Fairhope has to offer. Now they want to cut this off too? Oh, I forgot - they can always go gaze at the flower clock.

Publisher said...

Yes, the feces left by the geese is causing a health hazard there and polluting the bay.

Anonymous said...

You ought to read more to better educate your self about the issues.

Anonymous said...

Only a native Fairhopian (or a complete fool) would look at that feces and say it came from a goose.
I have no doubt they test something but they didn't test a piece of that.
Why does the mayor hate waterfowl and not the developers that are ruining our bay?

Anonymous said...

Simply putting up signs asking people not to feed them because of the health hazard it causes is a no-brainer. except for this city council which appears to have no brain(s).

Anonymous said...

So, signs saying do not feed the geese. A people, they'll still be eating and still pooping.

Anonymous said...

Create a one day goose hunting season in order to feed the poor.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I doubt they even did a test on the feces , it clearly looks human if that is from a goose it would be a mutant. I guess the test was done by one of the good ole boys> same that is responsible for drainage

Anonymous said...

Wow, have you ever been down to the duck pond? You can sit and watch the ducks and grease poop. Looks the same as what was on the beach after the jubilee. The gease were eating all the dead fish and shrimp. While eating they were pooping, as the tide went out it left poop behind. Search it on web, they have the same problems anywhere there are ducks and gease. One story from up north talked about the gease eating the nice grass at school and the kids could not go out to the playground because it was so bad. The vocational class cut out animal figures out of plywood to look like wolves to keep them away. Please people why would any city hide it if they had a sewer spill? If reported and repaired the EPA, and ADEM will not do anything to any system. It's a part of life and 100 % better than it use to be. No the bay is not a clorinated pool but people have been swimming in these places for ever. How can Fairhope get the state, EPA, and Auburn who did the test to all lie. You need to ask questions why our soldiers aren't getting help through the VA, or some other issue that really need exposure.
God bless America we sure need it.

Anonymous said...

another example of failure of leadership.

Anonymous said...

Qh so you are saying the goose is the answer to all of Fairhope's problems? I say far from it ! That is not goose poop in the picture, if you read the article it does not specify the origin , only that it is not human! I repeat what I said about the bay should not be a swimming hole! It is for WILDLIFE! As you say people have swam in it since forever , well it does not make it any more sanitary and I think that is a nasty and swim at your own risk thing to do! People urinate and poop and throw trash in it. The big drainage pipes going into the bay are storm drainage from the STREEETS, you might as well go swim in the sewage treatment plant . As far as the beach Fairhope has the equipment to sweep the beach , like they do when someone important is coming to town. It is so simple . Humans pollute the bay far greater than the wildlife.

Anonymous said...

No one said this would fix Fairhope, but it will help with the issue at the beach being that was what you were originally commenting on since that was what the article was about. I am sure you have already forgot. Being that you think that sewage is running down the storm drains. Fairhope does not have a combined sewer, and boy you would be very surprised what was coming out of the sewer plant. Went there on a school trip and the water you could not tell the difference between the drinking water out of faucet or what's going into bay. Again find a real issue, heard they are have a protest at planned parenthood today in Mobile. Good luck buddy and God bless America

Anonymous said...

Why not just put in a petting zoo there? bring in some chickens and pigs and other animals to let the choldren feed them all in a fenced off area? it will be a good attraction for the tourists.

Anonymous said...

Only insecure people try to insult others of their intelligence and you say God bless America . You are a typical HYPOCRITE. Practice what you preach!!! I have been to the and SMELLED the sewage plant but why don't you just grab a cup and sip away. Your house probably backs up to it too. hahaha And the kudzu!! As far as YOU talking about planned parenthood ,look who forgot what the subject was about !! I stand behind what I said and any FOOL would know that the bay is full of HUMAN WASTE!!!! IT is all over the beach everyday ie, wrappers , beer bottles, tires , condoms . THis is a REAL ISSUE!!!!! You act like Fairhope is perfect but......

Anonymous said...

Runoff from inland homes, streets, and farms (cows, fertilizers, etc.) were also areas of concern in past studies (THIS IS SEWAGE TOO)

Anonymous said...

She said the ponds are not functioning way they were designed ... to direct the outflow through the wetlands at the extreme northern end ... which should be filtering and treating the water before it discharges out into into the bay. Currently water is "spilling over dams" far short ... and going directly out into the bay over the beach, she said.

Publisher said...

All of the potential sources mentioned by here have already been identified in 2011 by an Auburn university biologist: the next step, tracking down their exact sources with DNA testing, has never been funded by the city council.