Mobile Baykeeper at Work

Mobile Baykeeper responds to environmental concerns in the Mobile Bay Watershed in a number of ways, but one of the most important things that we do is respond to “Member Concerns”.   These concerns from our members and our community are the crux of our work.  They guide the issues we work on and the projects we pursue.  The most obvious of these is last summer’s oil disaster.  We received thousands of calls in response to the Deepwater Horizon explosion and the concerns our community had about oil washing ashore in Alabama.  

Most member concerns come from phone calls to our office from members of the community, like you, who see a pollution problem and want to know what to do about it.  The staff at Mobile Baykeeper records the relevant information, tells YOU how to follow up on the issue, and we follow up as well to help find an answer or solution to the problem.  Sometimes this can happen quickly, but it often takes weeks or even months to find a “resolution” to a pollution problem.
The most recent member concern I addressed was from a fisherman who saw a brown glob-like substance off the coast of Fort Morgan.  As a fisherman, he was familiar with our waters and knew this substance was something not previously seen in the bay.  At first sight, it looked to be oil once again washing ashore.  He also knew which agencies to call and had already alerted the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.  We were able to follow up with the Department of Conservation, find out that the substance had indeed been tested, and discovered that what looked like oil in the bay was actually an algae bloom.  

There are many agencies responsible with safeguarding our environment.  In the above instance, the Department of Conservation was able to come out, take a sample, and send us the test results that identified an algae bloom.  Such algae blooms can cause fish kills, and when our staff went out to investigate there were dead fish, which we then reported back to the agency.  One of our most common member concerns is when someone is illegally or otherwise dumping something into our waterways.  In this instance, the most appropriate agency to call is the Alabama Department of Environmental Management to investigate your concerns.  If you see hazardous materials spilling into a waterway, the Emergency Management Agency should be alerted immediately, and if there are matters of public health, you should alert the local health department.  For a complete “Who to Call” list, click here.

The most important thing to remember when calling in a member concern is that the more information you have to report, the better.  This allows enforcement agencies to find the specific problem you are reporting and follow up on your concerns.  Pictures are always helpful, as well as specific information as to location.  It’s great to include GPS coordinates if possible, which can often be found right on your cell phone.  It’s also important to note the time the pollution occurred, and it helps to call right away.  If you wait hours or days to alert someone, there may no longer be visible evidence to pursue.  Of course, if you have questions as to what you should do in case of an environmental concern, you can always call our office at 251-433-4229.  By working together, we can continue to safeguard the health of our waterways and the people who fish and play in them every day.

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