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UPDATED: Bill to ban septage fields in Talladega County goes to secretary of state

Septic spray field

Aerial photo showing a field in Lincoln that is used for spraying waste. A different spray field in Cleburne County was recently shut down after neighbors complained.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct an error in the original version. The story originally said state House Bill 443, regarding septage spray fields in Talladega County, had been forwarded to the governor for signing. Due to the nature of the bill as a constitutional amendment, this was incorrect. The bill was actually forwarded to the Secretary of State’s Office to be placed on the ballot for the November election.

LINCOLN -- An amendment to the Alabama Constitution that would ban the spreading of septage on land in Talladega County has passed both houses of the state Legislature and has been forwarded to Secretary of State John Merril to be placed on the November ballot. 

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Ron Johnson (R-Sylacauga), would make the spraying of septage onto land as fertilizer illegal in the county. 

The bill defines septage as “any liquid or materials removed during the pumping of a domestic onsite sewage disposal system, including sewage, a mixture of sewage, sludge, fatty materials and human feces.”

The bill was originally proposed by Johnson and other members of the local delegation in February due to community concerns with a septage spray field on Holly Hills Road in Lincoln.

Many homeowners with adjacent property worried about the effect the field would have on their livestock, crops and families, while other Lincoln residents worried about the proximity to the Lincoln Sports Complex.

Johnson said the intent is to ban any dumping of raw sewage in the county, noting the bill specifically bans septage and not biosolids, which are used as fertilizer. He said this differentiation was done to protect farmers.

“Hopefully, now there will not be any dumping of raw sewage on the ground,” Johnson said.

Johnson said the bill would apply to existing septage fields as well as any future site.

Johnson also thanked state Sen. Del Marsh (R- Anniston) for helping get the bill passed in the Senate quickly.

Johnson said due to the local nature of the bill, it was forwarded to the Secretary of State's Office on Monday afternoon to be advertised. Johnson said the bill had to be passed before the end of the Legislature’s regular session due to time restraints with it being placed on the ballot. 

The bill did not require the governor’s signature due to it being a constitutional amendment.

Lincoln Mayor Lew Watson said he was thankful for the quick action by the city’s legislative delegation. 

“We think the end is in sight,” Watson said. 

Watson has previously said he opposed the site due to its location and the concerns of Lincoln residents.

Arthur “Bo” Header, who owns Anniston-based Absolute Environmental, previously said the septage spray field is completely in compliance with the law.

When asked Tuesday about the passage of the bill, Header said he did not have any comment at this time.

Header said at the time that workers from his company cleaned up the spill. 

Taylor Mitchell, Daily Home reporter covering Pell City.