Tag: Birmingham Water Works Board

Birmingham City Council Opposes Water Works Bill That Would Dilute Its Influence

The Birmingham City Council has officially announced its opposition to a state bill that would cut two council-appointed seats from the Birmingham Water Works Board, with some councilors saying the Legislature is trying to wrest home rule from the city.

House Bill 177, sponsored by Rep. Jim Carns, R-Vestavia Hills, would reduce the number of BWWB seats from nine to seven, removing two of the four currently appointed by the council. Appointment authority over the remaining five seats on the board — two by the mayor of Birmingham and one each by the Jefferson County Mayors Association, the Shelby County Commission and the Blount County Commission — would remain unchanged.
On Tuesday, the council unanimously approved a resolution of opposition to the bill.

“This bill directly takes away two appointments from the council,” said District 1 Councilor Clinton Woods, who chairs the council’s Governmental Affairs and Public Information Committee. “That basically dilutes our ability to represent our ratepayers, who are the (board’s) largest bloc of ratepayers.” Read more.

JeffCo Commission Debates Support for Senate Water Works Bill

Lashunda Scales expressed confusion today when a resolution supporting Senate Bill 179 was tabled.

The bill was said to affirm the actions taken Tuesday when the Jefferson County Commission approved its billing agreement with the Birmingham Water Works Board.

During today’s commission meeting, Steve Ammons moved that the resolution be tabled to get more information. Read more.

Jeffco Commission Approves Billing Agreement with Birmingham Water Works Board

The Jefferson County Commission, in a specially called meeting Tuesday, approved a new billing agreement with the Birmingham Water Works Board. The agreement follows months of negotiation between the two entities. 

Birmingham Water Works has served as the billing agent for Jefferson County Environmental Services for residents who are BWWB customers. These bills show both water charges and sewer charges. The sewer charges are based on the water usage for the same billing period.  

“We negotiated with them and came to a billing agreement which will allow more dollars available for our sewer repayment and make a more realistic and true cost of sewer billing for our customers,” Commission President Jimmie Stephens said. “It was a cooperative effort. We’re proud to partner with the Birmingham Water Works Board on this and to be partners in perhaps future cost-saving methods surrounding the billing of water customers.”
Read more.

Birmingham City Council Working on Plan for Overhaul of Water Works Board

As the Alabama Legislature considers a complete overhaul of the Birmingham Water Works Board, the Birmingham City Council is mulling its own legislation to meet state lawmakers halfway.

For the second week in a row, the council on Tuesday postponed action on an ordinance that would place additional prerequisites on its BWWB appointees. The proposal, which first appeared on the council’s April 11 agenda, would tighten background and training requirements for council appointees.

The language in the delayed ordinance closely echoes a bill currently being considered by the Alabama Legislature, which would add similar strictures to board appointees. But the Legislature’s bill, HB177, would go much further, firing all current board members and reducing the number of BWWB directors from nine to seven — removing two council-appointed seats from the board entirely.
Read more.

BWWB Collection Issues Raised During JeffCo Commission Discussion on Sewer Billing

A proposed extension of Jefferson County’s sewer billing relationship with Birmingham Water Works broached a discussion about why customer costs are rising.

County Attorney Theo Lawson told the Jefferson County Commission during Tuesday’s committee meeting that he has been negotiating with the utility company over BWW billing customers both for water and Jefferson County sewer service. Lawson said the current contract expires in December and must be extended six months while those discussions continue.

“We need to maintain the status quo,” Lawson said, “so that we do have collections in place until we can get this squared away.”

Commissioner Sheila Tyson said the dual billing relation has allowed some with BWW to blame Jefferson County for higher customer bills. “The collection method they have isn’t good because if it was, they wouldn’t be overcharging these people,” she said. Read more.

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.

Environmental Groups Say Water Board Isn’t Effectively Protecting Drinking Water Supply

Two local environmentalist groups are suing the Birmingham Water Works Board alleging it failed to comply with a 2001 consent decree that ordered protection of undeveloped land around the Cahaba River watershed, a major source of Birmingham’s drinking water.

Cahaba Riverkeeper and the Cahaba River Society, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, have filed a complaint in Jefferson County Circuit Court hoping to compel the BWWB to place permanent protections, overseen by an independent third party, on its land holdings surrounding the Cahaba River, the Little Cahaba River and Lake Purdy.

The lawsuit cites the worry that, because the land in question is “some of the last undeveloped land in a rapidly urbanizing area,” the BWWB may cave to “intense development pressure.”

In some cases, plaintiffs say, the board already has. Read more.