|Date(s):||February 10, 1978|
|Tag(s):||Politics, water quality, EPA|
|Course:||“Fundamentals of Environmental History,” Auburn University|
Auburn has always been a sleepy little town in the heart of Southeast Alabama, and it was even more so in the 1970s. The population was just over 25,000 people, with 18,000 of them being students and the median income for the city was estimated at $7,700 per year (Warr 1). The economy was starting to stall and inflation was on the rise, and people were just trying to make ends meet to provide for their families. The main occupation was farming, and a crucial part of farming was the accessibility of water to sustain the business.
The main source of water for middle and lower class families’ crops and livestock was Parkerson Mill Creek. In the 1970s, however, there was a large movement to increase the amount of areas, including waterways, to be reverted back to their natural purpose of supporting fish and wildlife. Because of this, William Warr of the EPA conducted a report was conducted on the feasibility and cost of changing a section of Parkerson Mill Creek back to its original purpose. The people of Auburn were understandably concerned about this prospect, because it changed their way of life for the worse and they would be forced to find a new source of water for their farms.
Auburn had always prided itself on its low cost of living, and one component of that was having a combined sewer and water cost of just $81/year (Warr 1). The new repurposing of the creek would add an estimated $10 per month to each household's water bill. That would mean an extra $120 per year that families could use for food, clothes, housing, and other living expenses would have to come from somewhere else. Not only this, but there would need to be another source of water for their crops and livestock. As one would expect, the people of Auburn were very nervous.
The environmental arguments, however, were also undeniable. The runoff and silt from their farms was draining directly into the creek, causing the fish and other aquatic species to die off. In a picture provided by the Alabama State Water Program from 1954, the creek is free flowing, but it looks very cloudy and contaminated. This could become a major problem, and if let go far enough, could become completely unsuitable for use (ASWP). While the residents of Auburn did sympathize with them, they did not think it was feasible to enact this new charge, and neither did William Warr of the EPA (Warr 3). Nonetheless, in the end, the EPA did rezone the area for the purpose of supporting fish and wildlife, even against the recommendation of Warr (Warr 3). With this monumental change in the residents’ of Auburn’s lives, they were forced to find a new source of water to support their livelihood.