News and actions that effect Hurricane Creek, it's watershed, and the people who enjoy it's uses.
Thursday, March 26, 2015
EPA looks into road project
EPA looks into road project
A road is shown off of Buttermilk Road just off Interstate 20/59 at exit 77 in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Tuesday afternoon.
Jason Getz | Tuscaloosa News
By Jason Morton Staff Writer
Published: Tuesday, November 24, 2009 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, November 23, 2009 at 11:21 p.m.
TUSCALOOSA | Environmental agencies are investigating a complaint that the Buttermilk Road widening project is taking a toll on the environment.
Contractors for the Alabama Department of Transportation are working on the 2.27-mile project to widen Buttermilk Road to five lanes from between Bradford Boulevard and Interstate 20/59.
Earlier this month, Tuscaloosa environmental activist John Wathen photographed what he claimed were violations of erosion control regulations, among other offenses.
“I’m filing complaints because there are some pretty egregious violations,” Wathen said. “Granted, we had a lot of rain that day, but it wasn’t anything exceptional. ALDOT simply did not prepare the silt fences right.”
Wathen forwarded photos that he snapped on Nov. 10, the day an approaching tropical storm dumped about 3 inches of rain across the region, to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Officials for both agencies confirmed that they were aware of the complaint and were looking into it. ADEM said the EPA was taking the lead in the probe.
Laura Niles, a spokeswoman for the EPA’s Region 4, said the region’s storm water action team was currently examining the damage.
“They are definitely evaluating whether enforcement action needs to be taken at this time,” Niles said.
Officials for ALDOT said that while sediment and soil did escape the confines of the silt fences along the construction area, it was not the result of poor planning or lack of concern, it was because of the storm.
“What you saw (two weeks ago) is something we cannot prepare for,” said ALDOT spokesman Tony Harris.
Barry Fagan, assistant construction engineer for ALDOT, said the 2 to 6 inches of sedimentary runoff covered an area about 600 feet long with an average width of 5 to 6 feet.
Crews will clean this up, he said.
“When we lose sediment, it’s our policy and our plan to mitigate that sediment loss,” Fagan said.
Within days of being notified of the complaints filed by Wathen, ALDOT officials met with him and a member of the board of directors for the Friends of Hurricane Creek, the Tuscaloosa-
based environmental group that Wathen heads.
Fagan and Harris said protecting the environment in the midst of road construction is a priority for ALDOT.
“It’s not just this particular job,” Harris said, “any job that we’re notified we have issues ... we get involved.”
Wathen, however, said he fears it’s a sign of things to come.
Part of the Eastern Bypass, a large-scale road project that’s being overseen by ALDOT, is still slated to go through Hurricane Creek and the famed M-bend, a popular canoeing and recreation area known for its rare wildlife and rock formations, as well as a swimming area that residents have used for decades.
Wathen is concerned that
ALDOT’s inability to control erosion on Buttermilk Road, which he said allowed dirt and mud to wash into tributaries that feed Hurricane Creek, is a sign that the M-bend could be harmed if plans for the four-lane highway go unchanged.
“It’s a clear indication of what’s going to happen if they get the bypass to go through,” Wathen said. “Every tributary I saw leaving that (Buttermilk Road) site was heavily impacted with silt and construction debris. They can’t do that in this watershed. If they’re going to build the Eastern Bypass ..., then obeying part of the law part of the time isn’t good enough.”
Fagan said that he and ALDOT are aware of the environmental significance of Hurricane Creek and although he stopped short of guaranteeing that the creek will not be disturbed in any way, he said that ALDOT is sensitive to the issue.
“We recognize, and have recognized for several years, that we’re going into a sensitive area,” Fagan said. “We understand that it’s supersensitive and we’re recognizing that early enough in the process that we will take extraordinary efforts to minimize the damage to that area.