Saturday was supposed to mark the third annual Sipsey Fork River Race. Instead, the Tyson Foods waste spill into the Mulberry Fork forced organizers to cancel the race, citing the water is …
Saturday was supposed to mark the third annual Sipsey Fork River Race. Instead, the Tyson Foods waste spill into the Mulberry Fork forced organizers to cancel the race, citing the water is not safe for human recreation. Organizers took the opportunity Saturday, instead, to gather and give residents an opportunity to file formal complaints and contact elected officials.
Martha Salomaa, president of Sipsey Heritage Commission, said that after racers came by to pick up their T-shirt orders they could then file a complaint with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM).
"We're going to make copies so that we know there is a record of these complaints, and then we're going to send them all together to ADEM," Salomaa said. "We're also giving out contact information that if anyone wants to contact any of our elected officials."
Organizers are wanting for Tyson, to be "appropriately punished," she said. "We want the river restocked. We want a physical barrier, a better one, between Tyson and the river. We also want to make sure that their equipment is properly maintained. Just like you would maintain your car to keep it safe, we want them to maintain their equipment to keep the rest of us safe."
In addition to the local economic impact of having to cancel the race, Salomaa laments the lost opportunity for the community and its residents.
"(The race) is a really good thing for us to shine," she said. "It's a really good event for our community. People get to come and have a good time, but they also get to discover the river. The river is very beautiful, even despite of this thing that has happened, that river is gorgeous."
In addition to community and local pressure, Tyson Foods will soon be facing legal litigation.
Attorney Bob Bryan of Nelson, Bryan & Cross in Jasper filed a lawsuit against Tyson Foods of Alabama, Inc. on Saturday after a series of calls into their office this week, citing negligence on multiple counts.
"We've had calls from at least fifty people, if not more, in the last week that have been violently ill from drinking the water," Bryan said. "It's textbook all the same thing, major (gastrointestinal) issues for three to four days and probably half of them have had ER visits or multiple doctor visits, so it's not just a bug."
In one of the more severe cases, a resident of Dora was admitted to Princeton Hospital in Birmingham.
"One girl had the worst of it," he said. "She was admitted and wound up in ICU for three to four days, got out yesterday and is back in today with multiple things going on. They confirmed it was E. coli, which is what's been tested at multiple times the allowable levels."
Listed along with Tyson as a defendant in the lawsuit is the Jasper Waterworks and Sewer Board.
As reported Saturday, the Sipsey Heritage Commission and attorney Jud Allen are also preparing to file a lawsuit against Tyson.