ALDOT takes steps to try to ease construction pollution

The Alabama Department of Transportation wants people to understand its commitment to minimizing the Northern Beltline's impact on the environment. Additional land will be purchased to prevent storm water pollution. But environmentalists still aren't satisfied.

31 acres of vacant land alongside the future Northern Beltline between Highways 79 and 75 in Pinson will be purchased to ease construction pollution.

"ALDOT{}is going to go over and beyond what is required of us in building the northern beltline," said John Cooper, director of ALDOT.

The goal is to prevent waste from getting into nearby creeks and wetlands, so ALDOT has hired companies with experience in storm water management to help. Those companies will oversea the installation of systems to help separate clean water from waste.

"This will be the best designed highway project from a storm water management stand point in the history of Alabama," said Cooper.

But{}the{}Southern Environment Law Center and Black Warrior Riverkeeper{}say that doesn't tackle the main problem, which is keeping{}habitats that are{}home to endangered species and bodies of water where we get our drinking water clean.

"This is only going to help after the road has been built, so they are still going to destroy the{}four thousand acres of forest, going through 68 acres of wetlands, crossing dozens of streams," said Sarah Stokes of SELC.

"These are sensitive areas. They are the headwaters of the Cahaba and Black Warrior. They supply our drinking water, critical habitat. At the end of the day, is it worth risking these important resources?," said Eva Dillard of the Black Warrior Riverkeeper.

Beltline supporters say yes because it opens the area to more growth. But the environmental groups believe the same can be achieved through other means.

"What they need to look at other ways we can advance growth in Alabama instead of putting 4.7 billion into this road," said Stokes.

ALDOT{}plans on filing for construction permits this week. Construction will begin in 2013 and is anticipated to take 30 years.