GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. – The City of Guntersville is best known for the beautiful natural resource surrounding it: the lake.
But the cleanliness of Lake Guntersville is now a concern after a nonprofit found more than a million gallons of sewage has been leaking into it.
Leaders of the nonprofit group Tennessee Riverkeeper told News 19 they are planning to sue the Guntersville Water and Sewer Board over 1.7 million gallons of sewage overflows, much of it leaking right into the lake.
Click here too see the full letter of intent to sue.
“These sewage discharges persisted for five years. That is the statute of limitations we’re allowed to go back five years to address this pollution. They went on longer than that,” explained Tennessee Riverkeeper founder David Whiteside.
Whiteside says the overflows happened all over the city, particularly from manholes.
“Most people know sewage is pollution, we learn in elementary school that poo is gross and it’s not sanitary and it’s not something we want to deal with. We definitely don’t want it in our creeks and in our streets, and in our lakes and rivers especially in the warmer months. In the summertime where people are out boating and swimming and kayaking and their pets may be swimming in the creek. All of this increases exposure to bacteria and pathogens that could be found in untreated wastewater,” Whiteside said.
The group is stepping up because Whiteside says the state is not doing its job.
“We are enforcing the Clean Water Act because of our government, the state of Alabama, Alabama Department of Environmental Management. They knew about these violations. Guntersville reported them to ADEM. ADEM chose not to do anything about it for whatever reason even though these were filed under federal oath,” he said.
Whiteside says they are not suing for money but to speed up the corrections process as quickly as possible.
It is something Guntersville Water and Sewer Board general manager Bay Chandler tells News 19 he wants, too.
“The Guntersville Water Board, its attorneys and engineers are proactively negotiating a plan to address issues raised by the Tennessee Riverkeeper. We look forward to continuing to work in cooperation and coordination with the Tennessee Riverkeeper,” Chandler said via phone.
Chandler explained that the board has spent $18 million since 2013 working on that.
He said there was not and is not a danger to the public due to the sewage leaks.
Whiteside told News 19 it is encouraging to see how seriously Guntersville city leaders are taking the issue and how sincere they appear to be in wanting to solve the problems as quickly as possible.
“It doesn’t matter how you vote, whether you’re Republican or Democrat or Libertarian, or you’re rich or poor, black or white, we can all agree that it’s important to have clean waterways, clean drinking water, and wonderful places to go recreate,” added Whiteside.