Category: Environment

Water Board Asks to Oversee Housing Construction Near the Cahaba, Despite Its Fight for the Ability to Lighten Water Protection Rules

The Birmingham Water Works Board has asked the city to require developers of a property near the Cahaba River watershed to submit to board approval before beginning construction.

Arlington Properties plans to build a multi-family housing development at 4641 U.S. 280, a property that is directly adjacent to BWWB-owned Cahaba watershed lands. The Birmingham City Council on Tuesday approved rezoning the property from an agricultural district to a general commercial district. The BWWB is asking to have a say in the development’s permitting process.
“If this development is being considered for approval, we would request that the city require the developers to comply with Birmingham Water Works’ watershed protection policy and to submit the proposed plans and associated documentation to the BWWB prior to such approval,” April Nabors, the BWWB’s environmental engineer, told the council. “We just want to be part of the approval process.”

District 2 Councilor Hunter Williams expressed some skepticism about this request, in light of the board’s recent attempt to have conservation restrictions on its own watershed properties loosened. Read more.

Water Board Asks to Change Settlement to Lighten Requirements for Protecting Land Around Lake Purdy, Cahaba River

The Birmingham Water Works Board and Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall are asking a Jefferson County court for permission to change parts of a 2001 settlement agreement requiring conservation easements to be placed on board-owned Cahaba watershed lands.

This request comes just more than a month after the Alabama Supreme Court sided with environmentalist groups in a lawsuit alleging that the board had violated the settlement agreement.

The argument centers on the Cahaba River and Lake Purdy, which is a major source of Birmingham’s drinking water. Not only does development on land close to the bodies of water risk contamination, it also drives up the cost of filtering and cleaning the water, which raises rates.

Last year, the Cahaba Riverkeeper and the Cahaba River Society sued the BWWB, claiming that in the 20 years since the settlement had been reached, the board had never placed any legal conservation easement on its properties surrounding the lake and the river, despite it being a condition of the board’s purchase of the land. The board unsuccessfully tried to get that suit thrown out of court.

Environmentalists say the board’s request to change the agreement directly conflicts with its past claims of compliance. Read more.

Supreme Court Backs Move to Protect Land Around Water Source

The Alabama Supreme Court has sided with environmentalists who say the Birmingham Water Works Board is not abiding by a court order to protect land around Lake Purdy and parts of the Cahaba River, which are the largest source of drinking water in the Birmingham area.

The Supreme Court overturned an earlier court ruling that sided with the board and sent the case back to the circuit court. Read more.

Jefferson County Enlists Zoning Officials in Battle Against ‘Poop Trains,’ Littering

The Jefferson County commissioners Thursday enlisted the aid of county personnel to fight illegal dumping, littering and violations involving “poop trains” in the county.

And those they enlisted are already on the frontlines.

“We designated the sanitation and ordinance inspectors, the zoning inspectors, the zoning supervisor and the zoning administrator as solid waste officers,” County Attorney Theo Lawson said. “By being designated as solid waste officers, that then gives them the authority under the code to write citations for criminal littering. Those folks are now able to enforce criminal littering through issuing citations. That should be a huge increase in our folks’ ability to enforce criminal littering.” Read more.

JeffCo Commissioners Discuss Laws to Stop “Poop Trains” From Hauling Waste Into the County

In the race to attract businesses from the North, the Jefferson County Commission made it clear that it would rather not be in the race, and it certainly doesn’t want to win the race.

At least when it comes to “poop trains.”

During its committee meeting today, commissioners discussed a couple of matters they hope will address a renewed effort by companies in New York and New Jersey to ship solid waste to Jefferson County by rail.

So-called “poop trains” made a literal and figurative stink in 2017 as solid waste was brought into the area by rail. A resolution that was moved to the agenda of Thursday’s commission meeting would establish solid waste officers who would help enforce ordinances put in place concerning illegal littering and, more specifically, the poop trains that are coming into Jefferson County from up north. Read more.

Carbon Monoxide From Generators Poisons Thousands of People a Year. The U.S. Has Failed to Force Safety Changes.

This story was originally published by ProPublica.

Portable generators can save lives after major storms by powering medical equipment, heaters and refrigerators when the grid collapses. But desperate residents who rely on the machines to keep their families safe sometimes end up poisoning them instead.

The devices can emit as much carbon monoxide as 450 cars, according to federal figures. They kill an average of 70 people in the U.S. each year and injure thousands more, making them one of the most dangerous consumer products on the market. Read more.

More Extreme Weather in Gulf States Means More Power Outages. Are Energy Companies Ready for It?

The 2021 Atlantic hurricane season is off to a busy start, and forecasters say it is likely to be as active as last year, when thousands were without power for weeks after hurricanes Laura, Zeta, Cristobal and Delta hit the Gulf South.

Climate studies show that a more-active hurricane season is just one of the new normals that climate change is bringing to the region, and with that comes bigger threats to the power grid. Read more.