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OUR VIEW: With storm water cooperative gutted,Jefferson County cities will find it harder to meet tougher federal clean water requirements
October 26, 2009, 5:32AM
Developers and large industrial landowners won their battle in gutting the cooperative that monitors storm water runoff for area local governments. But examples continue to surface that their Pyrrhic victory could come back to haunt them and the local governments that sided with them.
In July, an audit by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that Shelby County's program for detecting and preventing pollution from storm water runoff was deficient, and the county could face possible penalties.
(see links to the right on Shelby County federal audit and SWMA)
That was significant, because Shelby County's program had been held up as a model by the Business Alliance for Responsible Development, a group of developers and big landowners bent on dismantling Jefferson County's cooperative, the Storm Water Management Authority. Developers contend SWMA was doing too much in its oversight of storm water runoff and that Shelby County had it right.
The EPA audit proved the opposite. River protection advocates, such as the Cahaba River Society and the Alabama Rivers Alliance, were right when they warned that the EPA would require more stringent efforts, not less, in meeting requirements of the federal Clean Water Act.
Last week, the federal agency again proved the river protectors were right. The EPA fined a Chelsea developer and Sheffield utility for storm water runoff and waste disposal violations.
More important, the EPA, under a new administration, said its enforcement actions were meant to send "a strong message about the importance of protecting rivers, lakes and streams across the Southeast." That involves stepping up oversight of state clean water programs, including more aggressive enforcement at smaller pollution sources such as construction and drainage sites.
This is an area in which the Alabama Department of Environmental Management has been particularly lacking. "EPA knows that ADEM is not doing enough, and in the process of looking over ADEM's shoulder, EPA has found it necessary to take action themselves," Nelson Brooke of the Black Warrior Riverkeeper told News staff writer Thomas Spencer.
That is another indirect rebuke of BARD, which, in trying to convince area governments to leave SWMA, said the cooperative was infringing on the duties of ADEM. But it's clear ADEM wasn't up to the task, and SWMA was badly needed.
Unfortunately, BARD was able to persuade enough of the major governments in SWMA -- Birmingham, Hoover, Bessemer and Jefferson County among them -- to pull out, ensuring the cooperative couldn't afford to continue its water-testing and monitoring functions.
Last month, SWMA's board, which consists of the mayors of the 20 remaining cities, voted to send the agency's workers, who are county employees, back to the county and to contract with the Jefferson County Health Department to carry out the water testing and pollution detection inspections SWMA had done. While the step was necessary, the Health Department doesn't have the expertise SWMA did in meeting the federal mandates.
In addition, those cities that left SWMA are on their own in operating their storm water management programs. And they're going to have to meet the stricter requirements of the federal government, something they were in much better shape to do with SWMA.
Posted by bhaml******
October 28, 2009, 6:49AMThe Big Mules continue to treat AL like a plantation. And the politicians in their pocket continue to prostitute themselves for a few bucks. It is depressing living here some days.
Stephen Bradley & Rob Fowler at it once again.
Nothing BARD does is positive for anyone other than their own selfish, greedy interests and the "clients" they represent.
We can expect the same in Vincent since both of them are representing WRQ.