Sunday, April 9, 2017

Creek Cleanup Sucess Story

The Hurricane Creek Cleanup 2017 came off without a hitch. The weather was perfect. It was a little chilly in the morning with a light frost on the trees and in the air.

That didn’t stop the Friends of Hurricane Creek from turning out in numbers to clean the area. I estimated about 50 to 60 people came out to help.

2006 Dump site where PARA Hurricane Creek Park sits now

It’s a shame that after 24 years we can still fill up a large dumpster with trash others have thoughtlessly thrown out of a car window or in some cases people have hunted obscure isolated roads to dump literally tons of household garbage. We have seen that decrease over the years but there’s still a few out there that need educated as to the real harm caused by litter. That’s how the Friends of Hurricane Creek came about.

Registration always is the most tense part of the cleanup for me. How many will show up? Will there be enough volunteers to get the job done? Have I forgotten anything, that sort of thing?

People began showing up early and many had driven a long way to get here. Some of the Camp McDowell staff came all the way from Nauvoo. Down in the campground folks were making preparations and eating a bite before beginning the work ahead. It was really shaping up to be a great day on the creek.
We set crews out along the road to get litter and trash out of the drain ditches. In big rain events it all gets washed into the creek.

All together there were 26 people in canoes and kayaks in the creek to remove any litter along the banks.

Our long standing friend Todd Hester from University of Alabama Museum of Natural History was there with a load of boats for the day. As usual he held a brief training and safety session before allowing anyone to get in the water.

 It was an absolutely beautiful day to be on the creek.

With all the recent high water I wasn’t expecting to see much in the creek but the boats came out at the lower end full.

When the boats return to the camp it’s a signal that it’s time to eat so after helping the boaters get their boats and trash out we had a prayer of thanks then proceeded to reduce the table full of food to nothing in just a few minutes.

There was fruit, beans, A killer beef stew, deviled eggs, smoked turkey, and of course Nancy Callahan’s famous banana pudding! Man if you walked away from this table hungry it was your own darned fault.

It’s amazing how quiet 60 people can be when good food hits their plates.

With the boats loaded safely back on trailers and car rooftops and all the food eaten it was time to call it a day and just relax with good friends and a picture perfect day. We sat for hours after lunch talking and sharing ideas for the future.

Two new members volunteered to sit on our Board of Directors to continue the guidance of the Friends of Hurricane Creek hopefully for many more cleanups!

A heart felt thanks to all who came out to volunteer and those behind the scenes who continuously Support us. I want to give out a special shout out to the Brooke Foundation for their trust and support of the Hurricane Creekkeeper program.

Another special shout out to Rumsey Environmental Services for the donation of the dumpster every year since about 15 years ago.

At the end of the day we filled a 60 Yard dumpster about ¾ full. and it was time for me to really relax for the evening. It was a picture perfect night to end a picture perfect day!

 Mitakuye Oyasin  (We are all related)

John L. Wathen,
Hurricane Creekkeeper
Friends of Hurricane Creek.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Work day 17 has begun

Dr. Doug Woodward was the first to show up with his very large mower. He is cutting the communal area of the campground. I'll run a weed eater around the small stuff when he is done.

It looks like this is going to be an exceptional cleanup on Apr. 08... Next weekend.
2016 cleanup

Wild Azaleas are in bloom up and down the creek so the paddle trip next week should be Absolutely Alabama Awesome!

We are still looking for people to bring food to the potluck. Believe me when it's all over you WILL be hungry.

The actual cleanup is set for next weekend, Apr 08, 2017
Y'all come see us ya heahr!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Groups seek better warnings in event of sewage spill

Groups seek better warnings in event of sewage spill

Tuscaloosa News file photo
Nine Alabama conservation advocacy groups have asked the Alabama Department of Environmental Management to require widespread public notification in the event of a sewage spill or overflow.
A joint petition from nonprofits including the Alabama Rivers Alliance, the Black Warrior Riverkeeper, Friends of Hurricane Creek and more asks the seven-member Environmental Management Commission to amend the ADEM code and set clearer regulations about what public notice sewage treatment facilities must provide if they are responsible for a leak, spill or overflow that sends sewage into a public waterway.

"Permittees are failing to provide immediate, adequate or consistent notification to the public when they become aware of a notifiable sanitary sewer overflow," the petition reads. "An amendment is critical to ensure that the affected public obtains timely and sufficient information to protect themselves and their families from the adverse consequences of exposure to sanitary sewer overflows."

Creekkeeper John Wathen, who serves as an advocate primarily for the conservation of Hurricane Creek in Tuscaloosa, pointed to recurring problems at wastewater treatment plants in the county. Records obtained by The Tuscaloosa News from ADEM's public database show that Northport reported 20 sanitary sewer overflows last year. Tuscaloosa reported 50.

"Here in Tuscaloosa County we have seen more than our fair share of these overflows," Wathen said. "Sometimes there is notice and sometimes not. In most cases what notices that are posted are not adequate to protect human health in some cases."

Wathen cited a sewage spill in Northport last year that sent between 400,000 and 4 million gallons of sewage into three area creeks and the Black Warrior River on the weekend of Independence Day.
"Other than Northport's lightly followed Facebook page," Wathen said, "there was no public notification of the large scale spill into the river, nor was there anyone staffing the city's 24-hour emergency hotline who could tell the public about the spill or the consequences to public health."

Black Warrior Riverkkeeper Nelson Brooke echoed Wathen's concerns and said Alabama residents have a fundamental right to know if and when there is untreated sewage in their waterways.
"Operators of treatment plants in Alabama must do a better job of adequately notifying the public when sewage spills happen, especially so that folks who are swimming, fishing, and recreating downstream do not put their health at risk," Brooke said.

According to a news release from the petitioners, if the Environmental Management Commission grants their petition, ADEM will solicit public comment on their proposed rule and decide whether or not to adopt it.

A copy of their petition can be found at

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Sewer update, Little Hurricane Creek

Lift station 39 @ Little Hurricane Creek

Today there were no trucks around the lift station and the area has been cleaned well. After speaking with Tuscaloosa Sewer department I have learned that the sample results show below normal bacterial count in Little Hurricane Creek in all but one place which is right at the overflow site. That is to be expected.

The site has been cleaned with disinfectant and I saw no solid waste on the ground. Thanks to Tuscaloosa Sewer Dep for the cleanup efforts and notifying us of the sample results.

One thing that makes me feel better is the presence of SCADA monitoring. It sends a message instantly to the main department letting them know quickly when an overflow occurs. If I am correct in saying that it is SCADA equipped then the response time would be greatly shortened compared to the huge overflow in Northport a few weeks back. The Friends of Hurricane Creek thank them.

While there's still room to grow, Tuscaloosa is far better at reporting than in years past.  

The overflow site is about 26 miles from the PARA park on 216. Factor in the recent afternoon showers to help break it down and I am a lot less concerned today than yesterday. I can not say without doubt that all is clear but if it means anything, I will probably go swimming this afternoon after work.

PS> I just got a message from Tuscaloosa saying the situation has been permanently repaired. Again thanks for communicating.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Outdoor Action by UofA Outdoor action!

Every year we get a load of volunteers from the University of Alabama, Outdoor Action group. This year was no less impressive than years past. Between 90 and 100 students and staff showed up ready to work again this year.
University of Alabama, 2016 Outdoor Action group

There were enough students to split up into 3 groups to cover more ground.
Alabama Power Co Pavilion at Hurricane Creek Park

Group 1 concentrated on the new PARA park on Hurricane Creek. 

Alabama Power Co. was kind enough to donate $35,000 to the park for a new pavilion. With budget issues and new parks added to the PARA list, money was a bit tight to finish the landscaping. 

For some time now it has stood looking pretty rough. Weeds grew where grass should have been and erosion was beginning to take a toll on the slopes.

The first matter of business was to get the soil ready for grass using rakes and sling blades. By the time the students were ready to work the Tuscaloosa PARA staff showed up with a pallet of sod, hay bales, seed, and fertilizer.

Part of he crew set about raking and grooming while others set up a relay line to pass sod to it's new home. They worked like a well oiled machine.

So well in fact that Para staff decided to bring out more hay, seed, fertilizer and helped set up the erosion control so we will not have to worry about this section any more.


 I can't say enough good things about PARA and the way they turned this into such a huge success. 

By the end of the day the pavilion area looked as well groomed as some KOA campgrounds! The students that worked on this project came back proud of the effort and will be able to bring their children here one day to see the nice picnic pavilion they helped create. 
APCO Pavilion at Hurricane Creek Park seen from Hwy 216 bridge
The second group started at Largin Shoals above the Holt Peterson Rd. and walked downstream to Watson's Bend removing scrap metal left over from the tornado of 2011 and other debris washed in including several tires.

Many stayed in the campground at Watson's Bend to clear paths to the water and give the main activity grounds a facelift. Since this part of the creek was directly impacted by the tornado it was interesting to hear the students talking about how well the forest was recovering.

They cut and groomed the access points to the swimming areas as well as picked up litter. When it rained a bit they worked even harder. One student told me "At least it's warm rain"  

Since the tornado of April 27, 2011 we have seen a tremendous recovery of the forest around the campground but along with that regeneration comes invasive species such as privet. Without these volunteers it would be impossible for me to keep it under control alone. 

During a lunch break I took time to answer questions and tell them about some of the threats to the watershed and community. Many seemed genuinely concerned and disappointed to learn that this site where we had such fun was going to be destroyed by Alabama Power Co. for a power line Right of Way. The very benefactor who donated the shed at the PARA park. 

It's important for these new members of our community to understand that not all progress is good progress. They completely understood the irony of a forest that survived the most powerful tornado in our recent history would not survive Alabama Power Co. 

The third group started out at Watson's Bend and walked almost to the Black Warrior River also removing hundreds of pounds of tires and other debris. 

They were met at the take out by Dr. Doug Woodward who was more than happy to use his super cool 4 wheel drive to pull the bulk of the haul out for them.

After loading the days catch on my trailer we headed back to Watson's Bend for some well deserved R&R!

Watson's Bend Campground
The swimming hole

Outdoor Action 2016, Thank you one and all!