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Editorial: Birmingham votes to withdraw from SWMA

01.11.2008 by André Natta · → 2 Comments

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Editor’s note: The following letter was submitted to by Nelson Brooke, Riverkeeeper and executive director of Black Warrior Riverkeeper. It was originally published on their website. Click here to view it there. – ACN.

On Tuesday the Birmingham City Council voted to withdraw from the Storm Water Management Authority (SWMA) http://www.swma.com/.  The council has until October to decide whether or not to rejoin SWMA.  It will cost the city more to go it alone than through participation in SWMA’s regional program.  Mayor Kincaid’s administration considered withdrawing, but concluded such a move wasn’t in the city’s best interest.   Jefferson County withdrew only to rejoin after realizing they made a bad decision.

The city council is currently considering a Malcolm Pirnie proposal to do the work for the city.  Going it alone means more comprehensive and stringent permit requirements for the city, which includes having to test many more sites.  I encourage you to contact the city council and Mayor Langford [at] http://www.birminghamal.gov/ to let them know you do not support their withdrawal.  SWMA is doing a good job and there is no need to reinvent the wheel.

At the council meeting on Tuesday both Councilman Joel Montgomery and Mayor Langford said SWMA was not out there monitoring streams for pollution.  What do they think SWMA does?  I can personally attest to the fact that SWMA inspectors are very active in monitoring Birmingham’s streams.  The two local authorities in charge of enforcing pollution found by SWMA and Black Warrior Riverkeeper are Birmingham’s own engineering department and the state Department of Environmental Management (ADEM).  They are not doing their job of keeping pollution from entering area streams.  Why would one think a consulting firm hired by the city would do a better job than an already established county agency?

Let’s not be fooled here.  Mayor Langford and some of the city council are paving the way for relaxed restrictions on and regulation of those who make money by putting their pollution burden on the public.  A lot of powerful interests ( i.e. those who support BARD – see article below for more info) externalize their costs on the greater public by refusing to pay for necessary pollution controls.  The result for us is polluted water resources.  The result for them is fatter pockets.  Without SWMA, the fox will be guarding the hen house in Jefferson County and pollution will continue unabated just like it always has.  Rest assured, ADEM is a toothless fox.

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Filed under: Alabama · Birmingham · Commentary

2 comments
Carol Duncan
Carol Duncan

attending a RPC meeting on the northern beltway, SWMA membership failed to listen to citizens, only 2 elected officials voted against belt line. Duncan and Abbott, why you may ask, roadways are used to spur economic growth and every burb wants sprawl. ADEM is a paper tiger, we have firms in Birmingham that state the case as the largest contributor we receive less service. Smart growth needs to be adopted county wide. With the year long drought, we as a county need to adopt a pledge for conservation. Birmingham voted their intent to review all options on the table, according to the very bylaws of SWMA we are following their guide lines. My personal goals is to go for urban redo, but I work for the working men and women of Birmingham. I am protecting our environment, something lacking in other cities. Amazed at comments remember the Clean water act is Federal, in our Valley we deal with water from other cities, Trussville floods Birmingham, we get sued. Hoover builds 5 years ago and floods a small Birmingham Community, we must correct. Where was the harsh words when Fultondale, Hoover etc stepped out. I forgot Birmingham pays 40% of SWMA INCOME!

jenny
jenny

In my experience with citizen calls received through the Alabama Environmental Council's Watchdog Hotline, SWMA was always responsive to reports of threatened waterways in our backyards here in Jefferson County. We should question the reasons that the City of Birmingham would want to withdraw from this effective program. One can only hope that special interest groups such as BARD will soon be extinct as more and more local business leaders realize that it makes economic sense to be good stewards of the resources that our economy runs on. Though a handful of hangers on continue to spin advocates for our environment as "anti-growth zealots" who want to stifle the economy-there is a paradigm shift underway that I hope is more than just a fad. Please get involved--our voices together CAN and will be heard.