Nine more arrested at Tuesday’s SOS protest for Medicaid Expansion at State Capitol in Montgomery

By: John Zippert,

The SaveOurselves Movement for Justice and Democracy (SOS) held its bi-weekly protest on the steps of the State Capitol in Montgomery, Alabama to call for Governor Kay Ivey to expand Medicaid; for state and federal officials to intensify their response to the coronavirus, especially by increasing testing, contact tracing and support for the Alabama Black Belt counties, and Black, Brown and poor communities, who are dying from the virus at disproportionately higher rates; releasing non-violent detainees from jails and prisons to reduce the spread of coronavirus and other concerns.

Nine people were arrested by the City of Montgomery Police when they began painting “Good Trouble” and “Expand Medicaid” over the light gray paint that the City had painted over “Black Lives Matter” and “Expand Medicaid” written by SOS protestors in a similar demonstration on July 16, 2020.
Fewer than half of those individuals were actually painting – or attempting to paint. Several were arrested for simply standing on the gray painted pavement in front of the Capitol that does not block any traffic. The police closed in and started making arrests before the protestors could complete writing full words.
The SOS protest yesterday, July 28, 2020, was also directed at the Mayor, Police Chief and staff of the City of Montgomery Police Department for their humiliating treatment of five SOS and Black Lives Matter activists who turned themselves in to the police on Monday, July 20, 2020. The two women were strip searched and all were required to dress in jail jumpsuits and were placed in holding cells. During their five hours in custody, they were exposed to the coronavirus by jailers and detainees, who were not wearing masks
The nine who were detained at Tuesday’s protest were SOS leaders and members as well as some supporters from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Poor People’s Campaign for a Moral Revival. The nine arrested were: Hank Sanders, Selma attorney and former Alabama State Senator, Faya Rose Toure (Sanders), his wife and civil rights attorney, Martha Morgan, retired University of Alabama law professor, Queen Tate, Yomi Goodall and Judson Garner, SOS members; Ellen Degnan and Danna Sweeny with SPLC, and Stephanie Bernal-Martinez with the Poor People’s Campaign.
All who were arrested on Tuesday, were released in a span of two hours on their own recognizance. One White male was made to strip down to his underwear and put on a prison jumpsuit. No-one in custody was strip searched this time. At press time it is not clear what charges will be brought against the nine who were arrested.
The five SOS and BLM activists, Karen Jones, Faya Rose Toure, Johnny Ford, John Zippert, and Kamasi Amin (Juan McFarland II ) were charged with “defacing public property”, a misdemeanor, for the early incident of writing in the street. They have been assigned a September 21st court date.
Attorney, Civil Rights Activist and former Municipal Judge Faya Rose Toure, who was the only person arrested at both protests, said: “My arrest and jailing on Monday was the most humiliating experience of my life. I have been arrested multiple times in various cities in this state and country over more than five decades in civil disobedience protests in the fight for human rights, but never was I strip searched and never was I exposed to danger like I was in Montgomery in the city jail.
“The five of us all wore masks, but none of the other inmates with whom we were held wore masks not nor did all of the jail employees. This is dangerous not only for us but also for our families and all those with whom we come in contact. In addition to being embarrassing and dangerous, it was also hurtful to me because I was almost arrested in Montgomery last year for passing out voting materials during the campaign in which Steven Reed was elected Mayor. But I intend to keep fighting for human rights. I intend to keep fighting to expand Medicaid. I intend to keep fighting to save lives in Alabama.”
“Former Tuskegee Mayor and State Representative Johnny Ford said: “We have been fighting for the expansion of Medicaid in Alabama year after year after year. Alabama must expand Medicaid to save lives in Alabama. Expanding Medicaid would save the lives of an estimated 700 Alabamians per year – and that is before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.”
Several parents of children murdered while in the custody of the City of Montgomery Police and Jail voiced their complaints about the injustices of the city’s jail and justice system. The parents of Steven Matthew Seal and Tony Lewis Jr. gave testimonies about the unfair treatment of their children.
Persons interested in joining or supporting SOS in future demonstration may contact SOS through their website, Facebook page or by writing: SOS Survival Fund, 838 So. Court Street, Montgomery, Alabama 36104; phone: 334-262-0932.

Sandra Walker is candidate for Mayor of Eutaw

I, Sandra Walker, introduce myself as a candidate for Mayor of the City of Eutaw, Alabama. I have dedicated my life to helping and serving others. As a child, I dreamed of a life that was conducive to loving and treating others as I wanted to be treated; to extend help to the needy and to build a platform of refuge to those that were less fortunate. God has guided me through many life experiences which lay the foundation for what I hope will be my next step in service to others as the City of Eutaw’s Mayor.
After moving to Eutaw, Alabama in 2000, I have watched this flourishing city almost become a ghost town. It’s heartbreaking to know that while Eutaw is the “County Seat,” towns around it are building up, while it is diminishing.
As mayor I want to work with the city council and the citizens. Assess assets and needs, develop an action plan, work the plan, review, report, revise and regain solvency to support the city, its people, and the surrounding communities.
I can help make positive change happen. Applying my work experience and public service, I plan to use the knowledge and resources gained to strengthen and secure the fiscal foundation of the city that is needed to provide quality services and durable infrastructure for the citizens.
August 25, 2020, “Your Vote Is your Voice.” Elect Sandra (Sandy) Walker and Together We Can Win.

Newswire: France returns remains of Algerian resistance fighters, killed decades ago

Coffins of fighters returned to Algeria

Jul. 6, 2020 (GIN) – “The martyrs are returning home.” Those were the words of noted historian Malika Rahal on learning that the remains of 24 Algerian resistance fighters, killed in the Algerian independence war of 1954-62, would be flown back to Algeria after years kept by the French in a museum’s storage area.
“The body parts of those who fought the conquest of their country are returning home after a very long stay in cardboard boxes at the Musee de l’Homme in Paris,” Rahal said.
Algeria had officially asked for the return of the remains in 2018, as well as a handover of colonial archives but bureaucratic obstacles blocked their return until now, when a worldwide reexamination of the legacy of colonialism since the May 25 killing of George Floyd by a white police officer is taking place.
The remains – skulls of decapitated fighters – were viewed as war trophies by French colonial officers.
“This is the monstrous face of colonization,” Algerian army chief Said Chengiha said in a speech on July 3.
Algerian historian Ali-Farid Belkadi, the first to make the grisly discovery while doing research, alerted Algerian authorities. He said the skulls were kept in “vulgar cardboard boxes that resemble shoe boxes”.
On July 5, Algeria’s 58th anniversary of independence, the fighters’ remains will finally be laid to rest in the martyrs’ section of the capital’s El Alia cemetery, local media reported. They were flown into Algiers airport from France on a Hercules C-130 transport plane, escorted on arrival by Algerian fighter jets, an AFP correspondent said.
To a 21-gun salute, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune and a military guard of honor gave the war heroes an official welcome. Tebboune bowed in front of each coffin and a Muslim cleric recited a prayer for the dead.
France’s 132 years of colonial rule, and the brutal eight-year war that ended it, have left a lasting legacy of tensions between the two governments and peoples. The French presidency described the handover as an effort to “reconcile the memories of the French and Algerian people”.
Historians welcomed the return of the remains, but say they are just part of Algeria’s history that is still in French hands. “We have recovered part of our memory,” historian Mohamed El Korso told the AP news agency.
“But the fight must continue, until the recovery of all the remains of the resistance fighters, which number in the hundreds, and the archives of our revolution.”

Commission hires Underwood as CFO; addresses budgetary issues with Sheriff; and plans when COVID-19 occurs among staff

Macaroy Underwood

At its regular meeting held Monday, July 13, the Greene County Commission approved hiring Macaroy Underwood, CPA, of Vestavia, AL, as its Chief Financial Officer (CFO). The proposed agreement with Underwood provides for a two month employment beginning August 1 and continuing through September 30, 2020, when the county’s fiscal year ends. The commission and Underwood will re-negotiate his contract prior to September 30 with a term not to exceed four years.
Underwood’s compensation for the initial two month is proposed at approximately $5,000 per month, with said compensation to be increased with the new contract beginning October. 1, 2020. The proposed CFO’s schedule includes at least 30 hours per week, four days per week, with two days in the County Commission’s office and two days virtually.
The position of County CFO has been vacant since Paula Bird resigned February 29, 2020, after an employment of more than eight years with the county.
Following an executive session, the commission approved adding two Resolutions to the agenda. Resolution 7-13-20 addresses the budgetary issues between the commission and the sheriff regarding the additional employees in the sheriff’s department for whom Sheriff Jonathan Benison previously committed to provide resources. Reportedly, the commission is proposing definitive action relative to the overstaffing in the Sheriff’s Department.
At its regular meeting held Monday, July 13, the Greene County Commission approved hiring Macaroy Underwood, CPA, of Vestavia, AL, as its Chief Financial Officer (CFO). The proposed agreement with Underwood provides for a two month employment beginning August 1 and continuing through September 30, 2020, when the county’s fiscal year ends. The commission and Underwood will re-negotiate his contract prior to September 30 with a term not to exceed four years.
Underwood’s compensation for the initial two month is proposed at approximately $5,000 per month, with said compensation to be increased with the new contract beginning October. 1, 2020. The proposed CFO’s schedule includes at least 30 hours per week, four days per week, with two days in the County Commission’s office and two days virtually.
The position of County CFO has been vacant since Paula Bird resigned February 29, 2020, after an employment of more than eight years with the county.
Following an executive session, the commission approved adding two Resolutions to the agenda. Resolution 7-13-20 addresses the budgetary issues between the commission and the sheriff regarding the additional employees in the sheriff’s department for whom Sheriff Jonathan Benison previously committed to provide resources. Reportedly, the commission is proposing definitive action relative to the overstaffing in the Sheriff’s Department.Resolution 7-13-20(A) addresses the county’s process for protecting employees and sanitizing facilities when an employee has contracted COVID-19 or been exposed to the same. This Resolution confirms that when any employee in a department is infected with COVID-19, that county department will be closed and the employees will be required to secure COVID-19 testing and provide the results to the department head. The premises will be professionally cleaned and the department will re-open with employees who test negatively.
In other business, the commission approved repairing potholes at Robert Brown Middle School as well as re-appointments to the E-911 Board. Alonzo Thompson was re-appointed from District 1 and Johnny Isaac was re-appointed from District 4.
In her report to the commission, Burke provided the following General Fund Budget Recap by Account, Budget Allocation, Actual Spent to Date and Percent Remaining in that account:
Commission – Budget – $488,448.50, Spent – $399,924.57, Remaining – 19%; Circuit Court Judge – Budget -$1,800, Spent -$1,168.66, Remaining – 35%; District Judge – Budget – $1,800; Spent – $1,168.65, Remaining – 35%; Circuit Clerk – Budget $4,300, Spent – $3,599.88, Remaining – 14%; District Attorney – Budget – $6,575, Spent – $4,988.91, Remaining 24%; Court Reporter – Budget$1,198, Spent – $899.55, Remaining – 25%; Probate Judge – Budget – $254,845.36, Spent – $202,301.73, Remaining – 27%. Appraisal – Budget – $283,661.43, Spent – $155,398.95; Remaining – 50%; Revenue Commission – Budget -$203,282,14, Spent – 155,157.49, Remaining – 30%; Elections – Budget – $86,468.25, Spent – $58,098.70, Remaining – 23%; Board of Registrars – Budget -$65,964, Spent – $44,701.38, Remaining 32%; Maintenance – Budget -$193,143.40, Spent – $148,145.51, Remaining – 22%; Sheriff – Budget – $877,051.97, Spent – $772,842.84, Remaining 11%; Jail – Budget – $630,446.38, Spent – $509,405.08, Remaining – 18%; EMA – Budget – $48,943.10, Spent – $35,081.53, Remaining – 28%; Coroner – Budget – $31,384.50, Spent – 17,740.70, Remaining – 42%; Youth Services – Budget – $1,800, Spent $1,800, Remaining 0%; E911 – Budget – $30,000, Spent – $30,000, Remaining – 0%; Library – Budget – $20,320, Spent – $10,051.51, Remaining – 50%; Board of Education – Budget – $4,000, Spent – $4,000, Remaining – 0%; Total General Fund Budget – $3,195,432.03, Spent – $2,540,509.61, Remaining – 27% overall.

Tubberville defeats Sessions for Republican U. S. Senate nomination, will face Doug Jones in November

Tommy Tubberville, former Auburn football coach won the Republican second primary on Tuesday to defeat Jeff Sessions, former Senator and Trump’s first Attorney General.
Tubberville won in Greene County by 206 (62.42%) to 124 (37.58) for Jeff Sessions, as well as winning statewide by 333,890 (60.74%) to 215,831 (39.26%).
Jeff Sessions conceded defeat early in the evening and said he would wholehearted back Tubberville, who’s also supported by President Donald Trump.
Tubberville will face incumbent Democratic Senator Doug Jones in the November 3, 2020 General election.
Jones, who is regarded as the most vulnerable Democratic Senator, said he welcomed Tubberville to the race. Jones in a press release, said, “This race will take many twists and turns. Outside groups are going to pour money into this race.
“Mitch McConnell and his allies are going to do everything they can to beat me. Starting today, they are spending almost $4 million on television attacking me.
“The polling shows not only that we are in a dead heat, but also that Alabama is ready to come together and choose unity over division, and if you look at the national polls, our country feels the same way.”
In the Republican race for Court of Criminal Appeals Judge, Place 2, Beth Kellum won in Greene County and statewide over opponent Will Smith. In Greene County, Kellum had 201 (71.28%) votes to 81 (28.72%) for Smith.
In the race for State School District 5, Democratic nomination runoff, Tanya Chestnut – 21,230 (61.35%) defeated Fred Bell – 13,372 (35.65%). This district includes many counties in the Alabama Black Belt and parts of Montgomery. This is the seat held for many years by Ella Bell, who passed away in 2019.

Newswire : Black and Brown people make up two-thirds of US coronavirus deaths below age 65, a new study found

By; Aria Bendix , Business Insider
Black and Hispanic people represent nearly two-thirds of US coronavirus deaths among people under 65, a new CDC report found. The report looked at more than 10,000 coronavirus deaths recorded from February to May. The results highlight the way disparities in the healthcare system have caused communities of color to get hit harder in the pandemic.
Since the start of the pandemic, the coronavirus has disproportionately affected communities of color in the US.
An April report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that one-third of the nation’s hospitalized COVID-19 patients in March were Black — despite the fact that Black Americans make up just 13% of the population.
As coronavirus cases have spiked across the country, this disparity has only deepened. A new CDC report found that Black and Hispanic patients represented nearly two-thirds of coronavirus deaths among those younger than 65. The researchers looked at data from more than 10,000 coronavirus patients whose deaths were reported from February 12 to May 18, and found that more than one-third of deceased patients under 65 were Hispanic and another 30% were Black.
White people, meanwhile, represented around 40% of US coronavirus deaths of all ages and 55% of coronavirus deaths among patients ages 85 and older. That’s more than any other race, but white people make up a far larger portion of the US population: around three-quarters.
The fact that most young people dying of COVID-19 in the US are people of color highlights the racial disparities at play in the pandemic.
In an interview with Business Insider, Surgeon General Jerome Adams attributed some coronavirus outbreaks among communities of color to “social determinants of health.” Black and Hispanic people, for instance, are more likely to hold service-industry jobs that increase their risk of exposure. Black Americans also account for 17% of frontline employees, despite making up 12% of the US workforce, according to a study from the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
In addition, Black people more likely to have preexisting medical conditions that make them vulnerable to severe health outcomes.
“Health disparities have always existed for the African-American community,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US’s leading infectious disease expert, said in an April White House press briefing. The reason the coronavirus hits Black communities hardest, he added, has to do with the prevalence of “underlying medical conditions — the diabetes, the hypertension, the obesity, the asthma.”
These conditions aren’t primarily driven by biology or genetics but by structural factors like unemployment, household density, limited access to fresh food, and neighborhoods that lack clean water or have high exposure to allergens and mold.
“There are also factors that we don’t measure, and those include things like structural racism,” Adams said. “We have to acknowledge that these things are occurring and that they are occurring to people in many cases because of the color of their skin.”
Patients of color face barriers to testing and quality care
The CDC study found that most deaths from February to April were recorded in three areas with significant outbreaks: New York City, New Jersey, and Washington state.
Dr. Uché Blackstock, a part-time emergency medicine physician in central Brooklyn, saw the influx of patients in March. Almost as soon as the first cases arrived in New York City, Blackstock said, she began to worry that Black and Hispanic communities would be the ones most heavily impacted.
By mid-March, she said, her patients were mostly people of color. Data from the New York State Department of Health suggests that about 34% of New York City’s deceased coronavirus patients were Hispanic and another 28% were Black. Each group makes up about a quarter of the city’s population.
Blackstock said she mentioned the changing demographics to her staff: “Do you notice the patients look like us now?”
“We actually had to close [urgent care] sites that were in mostly white affluent neighborhoods because the volume of patients actually went down,” Blackstock told Business Insider. “They started having to move staff and providers over to sites that were in predominantly Black or Latino neighborhoods.”
Blackstock said one of the main reasons for these outbreaks is that patients of color are less likely to have access to quality healthcare. Black adults are uninsured at nearly twice the rate of white adults, according to US Census data. Many Black patients may also be hesitant to seek medical care in the first place.
“We’re seeing that Black patients were less likely to be tested even when they did present to a hospital that had testing or a facility that had testing available,” Blackstock said. “We also know that when Black patients do present to the hospital with coronavirus, they usually are sicker.”
Blackstock said one of her recent coronavirus patients, an elderly Black man, told her he would rather stay home than face discrimination in the emergency room. Another patient, a young Black woman, expressed a similar concern.
Blackstock recalled their conversation: “I had so much personal protective equipment on that she looked at me and she said, ‘I just want to make sure — are you Black?’ I said yes. She said, ‘OK, good, because I just want to make sure that I’m listened to.”

Encouraging Signs of Hope during COVID-19 A partnership between Greene Co. Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, Sorority, Inc. and the Black Belt Community Foundation

Mayor James Gaines and Town of Union members receive a banner for display from DST chapter member Loydleetta Wabbington.
Hale County EMS and Hospital receive banners for display. Fans were produced for Greene and Hale Counties.

A plan to spread joy throughout the Black Belt during the most historic and monumental time of our lifetime is being executed because of a partnership between the Black Belt Community Foundation’s Black Belt Joy Project, and the Greene County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated.
The goal is to express, in a creative manner, our appreciation to the First Responders and the Class of 2020 graduates in the chapter’s two county service areas. “We want local citizens to enjoy the artistic and creative weatherproof banners and signs of hope and encouragement presented to the Class of 2020 and to the first responders in Greene County and Hale County”, said Mrs. Isaac N. Atkins, President of the Greene County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated.
We engaged the services of two local artists to help convey these messages to both our first responders and the Class of 2020 graduates. The theme for the first responders is a spirit of gratitude for their love, care and help provided daily during COVID-19. To the Class of 2020, we want to encourage and inspire hope and pride as they experience monumental and historic times.
The signs and banners display a beautiful spirit of social distancing and wearing masks while encouraging the citizens to enjoy the beauty of the message from the convenience of their vehicles and as they are walking.
Banners, fans and magnets were given to the municipalities of Eutaw, Boligee, and Forkland, Greensboro, Moundville and Akron. Be on the lookout for these beautiful signs in Greene County and Hale County, AL. Remain encouraged and stay safe and healthy. Wear a mask.

Newswire: Breonna Taylor’s family claims no aid was offered after she was fatally shot

By: Stephanie Guerilus, The Grio

Breonna Taylor

Breonna Taylor’s family is not only holding the Louisville police responsible for her death but they are now alleging that medical aid wasn’t offered to the young woman after she was fatally shot eight times.

The bombshell claim was made Sunday in a new 31-page legal filing by the family of Taylor, The New York Times reported. It is their belief that the EMT technician suffered in agony for up to six minutes during what they believe was a “botched” raid in March.

“In the six minutes that elapsed from the time Breonna was shot, to the time she died, we have no evidence suggesting that any officer made entry in an attempt to check and assist her,” Sam Aguiar, the family’s lawyer, said in an interview. “She suffered.”

Taylor died on March 13 during a botched drug raid that she was not the target of. Taylor, who worked at two local hospitals, was shot as police were serving a ‘no-knock warrant’ related to a narcotics investigation.

Kenneth Walker, Taylor’s boyfriend, called 911 to report someone was breaking into their apartment. As police fired on the couple, Walker returned fire and Taylor was shot eight times. She died at the scene.

Walker was arrested at the scene for attempted murder but the charges against him were later dropped. No narcotics were found in the home and her family filed a lawsuit against the three police officers involved in the shooting.

Officials with the city have pushed back against the suggestion that she was left to die, insisting it is a “gross mischaracterization.”

The coroner who performed Taylor’s autopsy stated that Taylor experienced life ending injuries and any intervention on the 26-year-old would have been in vain. She believed that Taylor died “less than a minute,” after being shot. “Even if it had happened outside of an ER we couldn’t have saved her,” Dr. Barbara Weakley-Jones said.

The filing also declared that Taylor’s death was due to gentrification and not a drug raid gone wrong. It was alleged that Mayor Greg Fischer wanted the land Taylor lived on for redevelopment and officers were tasked with clearing out the area.

“People needed to be removed and homes needed to be vacated so that a high-dollar, legacy-creating real estate development could move forward,” Taylor’s family said.

The mayor denied the “outrageous” allegations through his spokeswoman Jean Porter. “They are insulting to the neighborhood members of the Vision Russell initiative and all the people involved in the years of work being done to revitalize the neighborhoods of west Louisville.”

Newswire: Statue of abolitionist Frederick Douglass vandalized in Rochester, New York Park

By Nina Golgowski, Huffington Post

Frederick Douglass

A statue of abolitionist Frederick Douglass was ripped from its base in an upstate New York park over the weekend, authorities said, prompting concerns that the act may have been revenge for the nation’s ongoing removal of Confederate monuments.
The vandalism in Rochester’s Maplewood Park took place sometime on Sunday, police said. The day marked the 168th anniversary that Douglass, speaking in Rochester, gave one of his most famous speeches condemning slavery.
The statue was found at the brink of the Genesee River gorge, approximately 50 feet from the pedestal where it had stood. Its base and left hand were damaged, and there was no graffiti or any other markings left by the perpetrators, who remained at large as of Monday afternoon.
An investigation into the incident is ongoing, police told HuffPost.
The statue’s removal came as anti-racism protesters across the country have toppled or petitioned for the removal of statues and other memorabilia that commemorates the former Confederacy. The motive for removing Douglass’ statue was not immediately clear, however.
Douglass was born a slave in Maryland and, after securing his freedom, dedicated his life to abolitionism and social reforms.
In Rochester on July 5, 1852, he delivered one of his most famous speeches, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” which called out the hypocrisy in Americans celebrating independence when there were still slaves among them.
“What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim,” Douglass proclaimed.
The statue in Maplewood Park was one of 13 in Rochester that honored Douglass’ life and long-time residence in the city. The Maplewood Park holds its own historical significance, as it often served as the final stop for escaped slaves on the Underground Railroad, the secret network of routes and safe houses that slaves used to reach free states and Canada, according to the National Park Service.
Carvin Eison, a leader of the project that brought the Douglass statue to the park, told the Democrat and Chronicle that the statue’s damage is beyond repair but that another will take its place.
He questioned whether the destruction may be related to the removal of other monuments across the country, in a possible act of “retaliation.”
“They can topple over this monument, they could go topple over all of them, this monument will still stand because the ideas behind it are bigger than the monument,” he told local news station WROC.
Rev. Julius D Jackson Jr., whose historically Black fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha, led a march to Douglass’ gravesite in Rochester on Sunday, also said he wouldn’t be surprised if the act was done out of retaliation.
“We’ve been down this road before,” Jackson told WROC, citing the 2018 vandalism of another Douglass statue in the city. “I would like to believe it’s not that, it was just some kids. But it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s some retaliatory, something going on.”
Two college students were charged for the 2018 incident. Both reportedly apologized for what happened and blamed alcohol, not racism, for fueling the act.

Alabama Power holds informational meeting and exhibition on plans to close and seal coal ash pond at Greene County Steamplant near Forkland, AL

By: John Zippert,
Co-Publisher and Editor

Forkland Mayor, Charlie McAlpine asks a question of Alabama Power engineer at public meeting.
Alabama Power engineer explains model of coal ash pond closure.

On Monday June 29, 2020 from 5:00 to 7:00 PM, Alabama Power Company held an informational meeting and exhibition on its plans to close and seal a 474 acre coal ash pond, located on its Greene County Steamplant site, near the Town of Forkland in the southern portion of Greene County.
The plant which used to burn coal to generate electricity now uses natural gas for this purpose. The Greene County Steamplant is also the largest property tax payer in Greene County and contributes significantly to education and public service in the county.
Coal ash is a residue of burning coal which contains heavy metals and other pollutants that can wash or leach into the river and groundwater sources of public drinking water for people in Greene, Marengo and surrounding counties.
Under Federal environmental regulations , Alabama Power Company must go through a public meetings and comment process to explain its plans to close and contain the coal ash plants at each of its electrical generating plants in the state. The public meeting in Greene County was one of several scheduled in the next two weeks around the state dealing with closing coal ash ponds at company facilities.
The meeting was set up an an exhibition with five stations where portions of the coal ash closure process were explained and illustrated. There were explanatory panels, maps. charts and actual models of the plans to deal with the coal ash pond closure. Alabama Power engineering, environmental and management staff were available at each station to answer questions.
There was no formal meeting where all attendees sat down for a question and answer session with officials of the company. This reporter is used to attending meetings of that kind where all the participants can learn from the questions and concerns of others. There is an official comment process through the Alabama Power website and the sites of the state and Federal agencies charged with permitting and overseeing the process.
The current 474 acre coal ash pond at the Greene County Steamplant abuts the Black Warrior River and the closure process is designed to prevent runoff and leakage of untreated water into the river and possibly into underground acquirers that provide drinking water for people in the area. The current pond is surrounded by more than twenty wells monitoring water quality. These wells will remain in place after the closure process and monitor for water seepage and runoff.
The plan calls for treating and removing all the existing water from the coal ash pond. As the water is removed the size of the pond will be decreased to 268 acres, almost half the original size. The coal ash will be exacted and moved further from the river to leave a 400 yard buffer from the river waterway. Then the plan calls for constructing a 2.5 mile subsurface wall around the pond. This wall will be two feet thick and 30 feet below the ground. The wall will be tied into the underground natural chalk layer in the area, providing a natural way to seal the materials in place.
The pond will be covered with a specially engineered plastic layer, plastic grass and sand which will help with storm water runoff. Water that does run off will be treated again before release into the river. The sealed pond is rated to withstand a 1,000 year flood, earthquakes and other natural threats.
The coal ash pond closing process is already underway at the Greene County Steamplant and will take five to seven years to complete. There are a number of permits and environmental approvals to secure moving forward. Alabama Power seems very confident in the value and safety of its design and plans.
It was difficult to make an independent judgement on the effectiveness and safety of the Alabama Power plans without extensive engineering and environmental knowledge. The newspaper will seek out these points of view in future articles on this important project impacting the health and economic development of Greene County.
For more information on the project and to make comments go online to: