LAWRENCE COUNTY, Ala. - Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Walt Maddox, said it's about time officials take a hard look at fixing the water problems in Lawrence County. Many of the people who live in Lawrence County believe the drinking water is killing them.
His opponent, Republican candidate Kay Ivey, hasn't said much on the issue.
However, her office issued its first detailed response regarding the issue since our Sept. 24 report on drinking water and health concerns in Lawrence County.
"Governor Ivey receives updates from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management and is aware of the situation in the West Morgan/East Lawrence area," a spokesman for the governor said. "She is encouraged by the fact that the level of contaminants remains below EPA Health Advisory and appreciates the hard work of officials in the area and ADEM, regarding this situation."
Maddox sees the problem differently.
"I'm absolutely troubled that this problem continues to go unmitigated," said Maddox.
Maddox said, if elected as governor, he would support state-funded blood tests for residents living in Lawrence County.
In 2016, manufacturing chemicals, PFOA and PFOS, were found in the West-Morgan East Lawrence drinking water above recommended levels. Residents were told to not drink the water for a brief time.
The WMEL water authority installed a carbon filtration system in October 2016. The carbon filtration system is expected to filter out the dangerous PFOA and PFOS chemicals. The WMEL Water Authority says the water currently meets all state and federal regulatory requirements.
The current system is supposed to help, but WMEL officials say it's not a permanent fix. They say the water treatment plant needs a reverse osmosis system estimated to cost $25 million dollars. The WMEL manager has previously told WHNT News 19 the reverse osmosis is a more advanced system to capture other industrial pollutants in water.
"I know my opponent has taken big dollars from those who have not been good friends to our environment over the years and I understand her reluctance to have ADEM take any corrective action but these are the people that she represents," said Maddox.
The Democratic candidate said the health concerns in Lawrence County have been ignored for too long.
"The governor has to stand tall for the people who pay her salary. In Lawrence County, what we have seen is that the problems of those constituents have been ignored and they felt like they haven't had a voice," explained Maddox. "I can't solve every problem as governor. I would be misleading you if tried to say otherwise. But I can bet you that my voice would be heard and that my constituents in Lawrence County would know that I'm doing everything I can to make their drinking water safe."
Maddox told WHNT News 19 he believes the governor should be more invested in solving the problem.
"You see that ADEM hasn't been on the side of constituents," said Maddox. "If you're in Uniontown or you're in north Birmingham or you're in Lawrence County, how do you believe that ADEM has been on your side, has been your voice when you've faced environmental injustice?"