SIPSEY – Martha Salomaa of the Sipsey Heritage Commission and others directly affected by the Tyson spill are gathering information to file a lawsuit against River Valley Ingredients (Tyson Farms …
SIPSEY – Martha Salomaa of the Sipsey Heritage Commission and others directly affected by the Tyson spill are gathering information to file a lawsuit against River Valley Ingredients (Tyson Farms Inc.) in Hanceville, after the company released partially treated effluent (liquid waste/sewage) into the Dave Young Creek, which flows to the Mulberry Fork.
“We’re filing suit because we had to cancel our annual race, but also because we feel like something has to be done,” Salomaa said. Even before the June 6 incident, Salomaa heard reports from fisherman saying that the fish they were catching in the Mulberry Forks looked like they had fever blisters on them.
Attorney Jud Allen, who owns property on the Sipsey Fork near the Mulberry Fork, is the attorney for Sipsey Heritage Commission.
“We’re meeting with people on Monday to talk over the lawsuit and what to expect,” Allen said.
“This is more of a nuisance lawsuit for things like property devaluations, mental anguish where people worry about their safety," he said.
The goal is to make them (Tyson) stop polluting, fix the problem, and compensate people for their losses, according to Allen.
“Some of the people who live close to the plant (in Hanceville) experience terrible smells,” Allen said.
“I want to know what was in the spill,” Allen said. “How bad is it.”
The goal of the lawsuit, according to Salomaa, is to have Tyson restock the river, not with fingerlings but larger fish. Salomaa would also like to have an independent third party monitoring the water in the future.
“We’d like to have someone who isn’t connected with Tyson or ADEM,” she said. “Someone who doesn’t have a dog in the fight.” The idea is that with the monthly water tests, everyone would know that the water is safe, according to Salomaa.
Salomaa would also like for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to get involved and do the inspections of that facility in Hanceville, but she’s unsure if this is possible.
“We just want them to fix the problem,” she said. “If they need to build a berm between their plant and the Dave Young Creek, then they should do that.” If the equipment needs to be updated to prevent spills, then they should do that, according to Salomaa.
"We would like for the river to be restored and the plant to be repaired to prevent this from happening in the future,” she said.
“I’m thinking they’ve been doing this for some time because I constantly hear people say the fish are not like they used to be,” she said. “This was just too much at one time, and they got caught.”
Another thing Salomaa would like to see is for the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) to update their reporting system to make it easier for citizens to report problems on the river.
In the meantime, anyone who sees a problem on the Mulberry or Sipsey Forks can contact the Sipsey Heritage Commission on Facebook or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Our community is already struggling health-wise,” she said. “We don’t need anything else causing problems for us,” Salomaa said this is not a 100-yard-dash, but more like a marathon.
The Sipsey Heritage Commission will have an information booth set up from 8 to 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 22, behind T&R Grocery, at the confluence of the Sipsey and Mulberry Forks, at 5840 Sipsey Rd in Empire. The members will hand out information on how to contact elected officials and others about getting restoring the river.
“If someone wants to make a complaint, we will help them on Saturday and send those to ADEM in bulk,” she said.
Anyone that has been damaged by the spill and would like to join in the lawsuit should call Allen at 205-221-5601.
Another local law firm, Nelson, Bryan and Cross, announced on social media that it is also investigating the Mulberry Fork spill.