April 18, 2023
Environmental Health highlights Onsite Services
MOBILE, Ala. — In honor of Earth Day on April 22, the Mobile County Health Department (MCHD) is dedicating this week to environmental factors that affect Mobile County. The following is a glance at our Environmental Health Department’s Onsite Services division by Bureau Director Derrick Scott:
MCHD’s Environmental Health Department consists of three major programs that regulate laws and ordinances to promote, improve and protect the health of Mobile County residents. As we support the events and activities by the Bureau of Community and Nutrition Services during Eco-mmunity Week, we would like to stress the importance of protecting our community’s clean water.
The Onsite Services division of Environmental Health leads the way in protecting our most valuable resource — our water. The Onsite division regulates the septic tank industry in Mobile County. A failing septic tank can contaminate our groundwater (drinking water). Therefore, we must be diligent in ensuring that septic tanks are installed and repaired according to the law. The Federal Water Pollution Act of 1948 and its amendments help us keep our water clean and safe to drink. The safe drinking water act of the Clean Water Act (CWA) was enacted in 1972, and it adds a more uniform approach to protecting our drinking water. But, even with the laws in place, the other component to protecting our drinking water is you!
The Onsite division of MCHD works with the septage tank industry to ensure that all Mobile County septic tanks are correctly installed. In addition, our inspectors onsite regulate the septic tank repairs, placement, and maintenance. These measures help ensure that the septic tanks are working properly and not distributing contamination into our groundwater. MCHD’s Onsite division regulates the permitting, installations, and inspections of onsite sewage disposal systems (septic tanks) for all of Mobile County, both residential and commercial. Onsite regulates septic and sewage tank pumpers and requires an annual inspection of the pump truck prior to use. All persons involved in the onsite sewage disposal systems industry are required to be licensed by the Alabama Onsite Wastewater Board.
The CWA establishes the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States and regulating quality standards for surface waters. The basis of the CWA was enacted in 1948 and was called the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, but the Act was significantly reorganized and expanded in 1972. “Clean Water Act” became the Act’s common name with amendments in 1972.
Since 1972 with the CWA, our waterways have benefited from the laws and regulations enacted by this legislation. Studies from 1978-2001 have shown some significant results associated with the pollution reduction measures enacted by our legislators. Approximately 50 million pollution readings from 240,000 monitoring sites were taken, and the results have yielded three findings.
The first main finding was that the pollution concentration of our waterways had a 12 percent reduction. Secondly, the Act, which has grants available for projects, has helped reduce the cost that municipalities would have to pay to clean up their waterways. The third area the clean water act helped with is housing values. It is commonly known that pollution usually occurs in low to middle-income areas. Properties are more valuable when the environment surrounding these areas is clean and free of polluted waterways. The results of the studies are very encouraging, but we as a community can and must do more to help protect our waterways.
The CWA and other laws are designed to minimize the pollution that may enter our waterways. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), state, city, and other federal agencies are responsible for enforcing the laws, statutes, and ordinances regarding water way pollution. These agencies do their best to protect our waterways, but we also need your help.
Littering is a major contributor to pollution in our waterways and eventually threatens our drinking water supply. Most people think that litter stays on land and waterways such as lakes, streams, and the ocean are not affected by littering. This is a misconception. Litter can travel by wind and rain run-off and end up in our waterways.
Forty percent of plastic bottles are used only once, and they account for a large portion of the pollution in our waterways. Cigar butts, food wrappers, plastic straws/bags, and glass bottles are other discarded objects that can be found in our waterways. These objects can affect the health of our community because as they decompose, they release toxins. The toxic can enter our waterways and eventually contaminate our water supply. So how can you help the EPA and other government agencies with limiting the pollution of our waterways? Below are some ways that you can help:
• Do not Litter
• Fasten the lid on trash cans
• Reduce paper waste
• Participate in neighborhood clean up
• Organize your own cleanup
• Help spread the word
The Environmental Health Department of the MCHD will continue to support events such as the Eco-mmunity Week 2023 because of the importance of protecting our groundwater. A concentrated effort from all the agencies, organizations, and the community will ensure that we will continue to enjoy our beautiful waterways well into the future.