THE HISTORY OF THE JEFFERSON COUNTY SANITARY SEWER SYSTEM

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THE HISTORY OF THE JEFFERSON COUNTY SANITARY SEWER SYSTEM Powered By Docstoc
					                    OF ALABAMA





    THE HISTORY OF THE JEFFERSON

   COUNTY SANITARY SEWER SYSTEM





A Report Prepared for the Jefferson County Commission



                     November 2001




                          PARCA

                      402 Samford Hall

                     Samford University

                 Binningham, Alabama 35229

                    Phone: 205-726-2482

                 Sanitary Sewer System for Jefferson County. ... ... ... ... ... 1


                 Figure 1: Natura1 Features of Jefferson County                                    1

                 Figure 2: Manmade Features of Jefferson County                                    2

                 Figure 3: Facilities of the Jefferson County Sanitary Sewer System                6


Chapter II. Historical Roots of the Jefferson County Sanitary Sewer

            System... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 7


               Chart 2-1: Population of Jefferson County, 1830-2000                               7

        The coming of the railroads                                                               7

        Discovery of mineral deposits and industrial development                                  8

        Municipal growth and recognition of the need for sanitation                               8

        A constitutional advantage for counties                                                   9

        The County's preliminary engineering survey                                              10

        Enabling legislation for a county sanitary system: Act 714 of 1901                       11

        Funding for the sanitary system: Act 716 of 1901                                         11

        Validation of the sanitary system by the courts                                          12


Chapter III. The Accomplishments of the Jefferson County

             Sanitary Commission, 1901-1909                                                         15


         Organization of the Commission                                                          15

         Engineering supervision                                                                 15

         Construction program                                                                    16

                Table 3-1: Sewage Treatment Plant Capacity, 1909                                 17

                Table 3-2: Sewer Improvement Expenditures, 1901-1909                             17

         Operation and maintenance of the sanitary system                                        17

         Sewer system finances                                                                   18

                 Table 3-3: Sewer System Finances, 1907-1909                                     18

         Protection of water supplies                                                            18

         Involvement in the creation of "Greater Birmingham"                                     18

         Dissolution of the Sanitary Commission                                                  19

                Figure 4: The Sanitary System in 1909                                            20

Chapter VII. The Sanitary Sewer System from the Clean Water Act
              to the Consent Decree, 1973-1996                  58

      The advent of federal water quality standards and enforcement            58
      The secondary treatment requirement                                      58
      Initiation of treatment plant improvements to meet the secondary
        Treatment requirement                                                  59
      The development of a metropolitan wastewater facilities plan             59
      The 1976 rate study and 1977 sewer charge increases                      61
      Initiation of an ongoing capital improvements program                    61
      Moratoriums on connections to the sanitary system                        62
     .Extension of sewer availability to residents of other counties           64
      Slowdown in improvements due to funding issues                           65
      Awards for treatment plant operations                                    66
      The Wastewater Facilities Development Committee report                   66
      A court ruling on the County's ratemaking and borrowing authority        67
      Change in the makeup of the County Commissioners                         67
      Rate increases become more frequent in the 1990s                         67
      Rules changes increasing treatment requirements                          68
      The Cahaba River lawsuit                                                 69
      System expansion and upgrades, 1973-1996                                 72
                  Table 7-1: Sewer Improvement Contracts, 1973-1996            73
                  Table 7-2: Sewage Treatment Plant Capacity, 1996             73
      Staffing and organizational development during the period                74
                  Table 7-3: Sanitary System Employment, 1995                  75
      Sewer system finances during the period                                . 75
                  Table 7-4: Jefferson County Sewer System Finances, 1976-199576
                  Figure 8: The Sanitary Sewer System in 1996                  77

Chapter VIII. Development of the Sanitary Sewer System from
              1997-2001                                                        79

      The Terms of the Consent Decree                                         79
      Remedial actions                                                        79



                                        III
            Table 8-4: Sewer Replacement Cost Estimates                     85
     Treatment plant improvements                                           85
            Table 8-5: Treatment Plant Improvement Cost Estimates           86
            Table 8-6: Treatment Plant Capacity                             86
     The biosolids project                                                  88
     Adoption of an Automatic Rate Adjustment Ordinance                     89
             Table 8-7: Residential Sewer Charge Comparisons, 1999          90
     Unification of Municipal Collection Systems                            90
             Table 8-8: Linear footage of Municipal Sewer Lines
                       Assumed in 1998 Unification Agreements               91
     Implementation of the Greenways Project                                92
     Treatment plant awards                                                 93
     Sanitary System Finances                                               93
     Revenues and Expenditures                                              93
             Table 8-9: Jefferson County Sewer System Finances, 1997-2001   94
     Borrowing to finance capital improvements                              94
             Chart 8-10: Construction Contracts by Year                     95
     Staffing of the Sanitary Sewer System                                  96
             Table 8-11: Sanitary System Employment, 2001                   96

Appendix A: The History of Wastewater Treatment Plants in the
            Jefferson County Sanitary Sewer System            A-I

     The History of the Village Creek Treatment Plant                        1
        The period 1901-1909                                                 1
            Table A-I: Julian Kendrick's Plan                                2
        The period 1909-1931                                                 2
            Table A-2: Thomas Worthington's Proposal                         3
        The period 1931-1946                                                 4
        The period 1947-1972                                                 6
            Table A-3: Contracts during 1947-1972                           10
        The period 1973-1996                                                10
            Table A-4: Contracts during 1973-1996                           15
        The period 1997-2001                                                16
            Table A-5: Contracts during 1997-2001                           16
            Table A-6: Wastewater treatment plant improvement projects      17


                                       IV
   The period 1997-2001                                               29

      Table A-I 0: Contracts during 1997-2001                         29

      Table A-II: Wastewater treatment plant improvements projects    30


The History of the Shades Valley Treatment Plant                      30

   The period 1909-1931                                               30

   The period 1931-1946                                               30

   The period 1947-1972                                               33

       Table A-12: Contracts during 1947-1972                         39

   The period 1973-1996                                               39

       Table A-13: Contracts during 1973-1996                         43


The History of Five Mile Creek Treatment Plant                         44

   The period 1909-1931                                                44

   The period 1931-1947                                                44

   The period 1947-1972                                                44

       Table A-14: Contracts during 1947-1972                        ' 46

   The period 1973-1996                                                46

       Table A-15: Contracts during 1973-1996                          50

   The period 1997-2001                                                50

       Table A-16: Contracts during 1997-2001                          50

       Table A-17: Wastewater treatment plant improvement projects     50


The History of the Trussville Treatment Plant                         51

   The period 1931-1946                                               51

   The period 1947-1972                                               52

   The period 1973-2001                                               52

       Table A-18: Contracts during 1973-2001                         56

       Table A-19: Wastewater treatment plant improvement projects    57


The History of the Leeds Treatment Plant                              57

   The period 1909-1931                                               57

   The period 1931-1946                                               57

   The period 1947-1972                                               58

       Table A-20: Contracts during 1947-1972                         60

   The period 1973-1996                                               60




                                   v
             Table A-25: Contracts during 1973-1996                          73


     The History of the Cahaba River Treatment Plant                         74

        The period 1972-1996                                                 74

            Table A-26: Wastewater treatment plants improvement projects     79

        The period 1997-2001                                                 79

            Table A-27: Consent Decree Projects                              79


     The History of the Turkey Creek Treatment Plant                         80

        The period 1947-1972                                                 80

            Table A-28: Contracts during 1947-1972                           81

        The period 1973-1996                                                 81

            Table A-29: Contracts during 1973-1996                           85

        The period 1997-2001                                                 85

            Table A-30: Wastewater treatment plants improvement projects     85


      The History of the Prudes Creek Treatment Plant                        86

         The period 1973-1996                                                86

             Table A-31: Contracts during 1973-1996                          86

         The period 1997-2001                                                86

             Table A-32: Contracts during 1997-2001                          87

             Table A-33: Wastewater treatment plants improvements projects   87


      The History of the Warrior (Canes Creek) Treatment Plant               87

         The period 1973-1996                                                87

             Table A-34: Contracts during 1973-1996                          88

         The period 1997-2001                                                88

             Table A-35:" Wastewater treatment plants improvement projects   88


Appendix B: The History of Wastewater Collection Lines within the

            Jefferson County Sanitary Sewer System... ... ... ... .. B-1


      The History of Village Creek Lines                                           1

         Improvements, 1901-1909                                                   1

             Table B-1: Julian Kendrick's Plan                                     2

         Improvements, 1909-1931                                                   3



                                         VI
       Table B-7: Village Creek linear feet               11


The History of Valley Creek Lines                         11

   Improvements, 1901-1909                                11

       Table B-8: Julian Kendrick's Plan                  11

   Improvements, 1909-1931                                12

   Improvements, 1931-1946                                13

   Improvements, 1947-1972                                13

       Table B-9: Contracts during 1947-1972              14

   Improvements, 1973-1996                                14

       Table B-lO: Contracts during 1973-1996             17

   Improvements, 1997-2001                                18

       Table B-1!: Contracts during 1997-2001             18

   Improvements in the current capital improvement plan   18

       Table B-12: Sewer rehabilitation projects          20

       Table B-13: Sewer replacement projects             21

       Table B-14: Valley Creek linear feet               22


The History of Shades Valley Lines                        22

   Improvements, 1909-1931                                22

   Improvements, 1931-1946                                22

   Improvements, 1947-1972                                23

       Table B-15: Contracts during 1947-1972             24

   Improvements, 1973-1996                                24

       Table B-16: Contracts during 1973-1996             27

   Improvements, 1997-2001                                27

   Improvements in the current capital improvement plan   27

       Table B-17: Sewer rehabilitation projects          28

       Table B-18: Sewer rehabilita60n cost es6mates      28

       Table B-19: Shades Valley linear feet              28


The History of Five Mile Creek Lines                      29

   Improvements, 1909-1931                                29

   Improvements, 1931-1946                                29

   Improvements, 1947-1972                                29

       Table B-20: Contracts during 1947-1972             30




                                   Vll
   Improvements, 1947-1972
                                35

   Improvements, 1973-1996
                                36

      Table B-26: Contracts during 1973-1996
              37

   Improvements, 1997-2001
                                37

      Table B-27: Contracts during 1997-2001
              37

   Improvements in the current capital improvement plan
   37

      Table B-28: Sewer rehabilitation projects
           38

      Table B-29: Trussville linear feet
                  38


The History of Leeds Lines
                                38

   Improvements, 1931-1946
                                38

   Improvements, 1947-1972
                                39

   Improvements, 1973-1996
                                40

       Table B-30: Contracts 1973-1996
                    41

   Improvements, 1997-2001
                                41

       Table B-31: Contracts during 1997-2001
             41

   Improvements in the current capital improvement plan
   41

       Table B-32: Sewer rehabilitation projects
          42

       Table B-33: Leeds linear feet
                      42


The History of Patton Creek Lines
                         42

   Improvements, 1947-1972
                                42

       Table B-34: Contracts during 1947-1972
             43

   Improvements, 1973-1996
                                43

       Table B-35: Contracts during 1973-1996
             46

   Improvements, 1997-2001
                                46

       Table B-36: Contracts during 1997-2001
             46

   Improvements in the current capital improvement plan
   46

       Table B-37: Sewer replacement projects
             47


Sewer Lines in the Cahaba Rivet Basin
                     47

   Improvements prior to 1972
                             47

      Table B-38: Contracts prior to 1972
                 47

   Improvements, 1972-1996
                                48

      Table B-39: Contracts during 1972-1996
              49

   Improvements, 1997-2001
                                49




                                  VlIl
           Table B-45: Contracts during 1973-1996                          54
        Improvements, 1997-2001                                            54
           Table B-46: Contracts during 1997-2001                          55
        Improvements in the current capital improvement plan               55
           Table B-47: Sewer rehabilitation projects                       55
           Table B-48: Turkey Creek linear feet                            56

     The History of Prudes Creek Lines                                     56
            Table B-49: Contracts prior to 1996                            56
            Table B-50: Contracts during 1997-2001                         56
            Table B-51: Sewer rehabilitation projects                      56
            Table B-52: Prudes Creek linear feet                           57

     The History of Warrior (Canes Creek) Lines                            57
        Improvements, 1973-1996                                            57
            Table B-53: Contracts during 1973-1996                         57
        Improvements in the current capital improvement plan               58
            Table B-54: Sewer rehabilitation projects                      58
            Table B-55: Warrior Creek linear feet                          58

Appendix C: The Organizational History of the Jefferson County
            Sanitary Sewer System...                           C-l

     Organizational Development, 1901-1909                                  1
            Table C-1: Engineering Department Payroll, October 1901         2
     Organizational Development, 1909-1931                                  3
            Table C-2: Sanitary Engineer's Activities and Expenses, 1910    4
     Organizational Development, 1931-1946                                  4
            Table C-3: Sanitary System Employment, 1946                     6
     Organizational Development, 1947-1972                                  7
            Table C-4: Sanitary System Employment, 1974                     9
     Organizational Development, 1973-1996                                  9
            Table C-5: Sanitary System Employment by Function, 1975-1995    9
        Sanitary Engineering and Construction                              10
        Sanitary Administration                                            10
        Wastewater Treatment Pl ants                                       10


                                         IX
Revenue Sources                                                          1

The Property Tax                                                         1

       Table D-l: Sewer Property Tax Rates, 1901 to date                 4

       Table D-2: Sanitary System Property Tax Revenue                   4

Sewer Charges                                                            4

       Table D-3: Sewer Charges and Average Monthly Residential Bills   11

   Impact fees and industrial waste surcharges                          11

       Table D-4: 1999 Residential Sewer Charge Comparisons             12

       Table D-5: Industrial Waste Surcharges                           13

   Interest and Miscellaneous Revenue                                   13

Revenues, Operating Expenditures, and Debt Services                     14

       Table D-6: Revenues and Expenditures, 1950-2001                  14

Capital Expenditures                                                    15

       Table D-7: Sewer Improvement Contracts by Historical Period      15

Borrowing                                                               16

       Table D-8: Bonds and Warrants Issued; 1901-2001                  19

        Table D-9: Amounts Provided by Borrowing to

                   Finance Sewer Improvements                           22





                                  x
                                                           CHAPTER 1

      GEOGRAPHY, GOOD GOVERNMENT, AND THE DEVELOPMENT
       OF A SANITARY SEWER SYSTEM FOR JEFFERSON COUNTY

Jefferson County covers 1,113 square miles of north central Alabama. It is rectangular in
shape and oriented diagonally on the map, as if standing on one corner, with its long sides
pointing from northeast to southwest. This orientation clearly stems from the natural
features of the area, which include a series of parallel ridge lines, the valleys that are
associated with them, and two major river basins with tributary creeks. These natural
features are evident in Figure 1.

Chief among the surface features of Jefferson County is a long ridge that runs
southwestward and parallels the long axis of the County's boundaries. This ridge is
named Red Mountain for the iron ore that is prevalent within it. Red Mountain is in
effect the backbone of Jefferson County, forming the boundary between the watersheds
of the Locust Fork, which runs along the County’s northwestern border, and the Cahaba
River, which runs along its southeastern border. Both of these streams drain to the
southwest, and their watercourses parallel Red Mountain. The Locust Fork joins the
Mulberry Fork midway along the Jefferson County line to become the Black Warrior
River. These rivers ultimately empty into bigger streams that terminate in Mobile Bay.

  FIGURE 1                                                    NATURAL FEATURES OF JEFFERSON COUNTY




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                                                                       1
Beneath the northern face of Red Mountain lies Jones Valley. This valley provides easy
access to the iron, coal, and limestone resources found in the surrounding areas, and as a
result it was the initial site of industrial and population growth within the County. Later,
population growth spread up Jones Valley to the northeast, and to a lesser extent along
the major highway corridors to the north. The interstate highways connecting Atlanta
and Chattanooga with New Orleans, Houston, and Dallas run through Jones Valley,
intersecting in Birmingham with a north-south interstate highway. An interstate
connector to Memphis will soon meet at the same intersection.

The City of Birmingham occupies the central portion of Jones Valley and is the key
crossroads of the area's transportation network, as shown in Figure 2. Birmingham is
flanked in the Valley by industrial suburbs stretching from Bessemer in the southwest to
Tarrant City and the unincorporated Center Point area in the northeast.

The northern and western sections of the County contain a number of coal mines but
otherwise remain largely undeveloped, pending construction of a planned interstate
highway loop around the northern side of the Birmingham urban area. A number of large
creeks that originate in Jones Valley drain this landscape in a northwesterly direction,
emptying into the Locust Fork and Black Warrior River.


  FIGURE 2                                      MANMADE FEATURES OF JEFFERSON COUNTY



                                                          WARRIOR




                                                                                                 PINSON

                                                                             CENTER POINT
                                                                      TARRANT CITY
                                                         GARDENDALE
                                                                                                              TRUSS-
                                                                                                              VILLE
                                      GRAYSVILLE     FULTONDALE


                                            ADAMSVILLE



                                                                                                            LEEDS
                                        BIRMINGHAM


                                     MIDFIELD
                               FAIRFIELD
                                                                                                          IRONDALE
                          BESSEMER
                                                                                                MT. BROOK

                                                                                            CAHABA HTS.

                                                                              VESTAVIA HILLS


                                                                    HOOVER

                                                            HOMEWOOD




                                                     2
On the south side of Red Mountain lie Shades Valley, Shades Mountain, and the Cahaba
River. The central portion of this area developed as the “over the mountain” suburbs of
Birmingham, with rapid population and commercial growth that later spread farther south
into Shelby County and then northeast toward Irondale, Trussville, and Leeds within
Jefferson County. This development was spurred by the construction of an interstate
bypass around Birmingham that runs along the northern side of the Cahaba River. The
southern portion of Shades Valley, drained by Shades Creek, has only recently been
opened to development.

The physical characteristics of the county and the pattern of its development create two
difficulties for a sanitary sewer system. First, the service area is large and constantly
expanding as developments spread out from the central valley that includes the City of
Birmingham. Second, the two separate drainage basins, divided by sharp ridge lines,
demand separate treatment systems which, due to the development patterns, still have to
be carefully integrated. Because of the necessity of dividing the treatment systems, far
more plants and pipelines are required than would normally be the case.

Late in the nineteenth century, industrial development and population concentrations
within Jones Valley created sanitary problems that required the creation of systems for
collecting and processing wastewater. Municipal governments within the Valley began
to develop sewer systems, but each ignored the health and environmental problems its
sewers created for downstream neighbors. Ultimately the Legislature concluded that only
a countywide sanitary system would serve the needs of Jefferson County, which was
growing rapidly, and it passed legislation in 1901 to create such a system.

The concept of this system was to give Jefferson County the responsibility for
constructing wastewater processing plants and the trunk lines leading to them.
Municipalities within the County would develop lateral lines connecting homes and
businesses to the trunk sewer lines provided by the County. This concept governed the
development of the Jefferson County Sewer System throughout most of the twentieth
century.

The two-level concept of sewer development had an “Achilles heel,” in that it splintered
the responsibility for lateral sewer lines among a growing number of municipalities. The
County had no method of holding accountable all those who tapped into its trunk lines;
and the cities had little incentive to view wastewater disposal as a major issue, since their
job was simply to transport sewage to another unit of government charged with its
disposal. Maintenance of the System suffered as a result. The process of unifying the
sewer system under the direction of Jefferson County began in 1996, with the signing of a
consent agreement between the County and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The terms of this agreement required the County to assume responsibility for the lateral
lines that had been maintained by the cities, and to develop the capacity within the
unified system to process the volume of waste generated within Jefferson County while
meeting federal and state environmental standards.

The consent decree also made the County Commission responsible for creating the
financial capability to manage this large and costly mandate. Since 1997, the

                                             3
Commission has aggressively pursued a plan that calls for the investment of more than $2
billion to provide sanitary sewer facilities in the County that are able to collect and treat
existing volumes of wastewater flow, accommodate economic development, protect the
environment, and comply fully with existing provisions of the Clean Water Act. Today
the Jefferson County Sanitary Sewer System includes 2,650 miles of trunk and lateral
sewer lines running underneath Jefferson County. These lines carry wastewater to nine
sophisticated treatment facilities capable of processing a daily average of 170 million
gallons. Figure 3 shows the geographic layout of these wastewater treatment plants and
their individual capacities. After processing, treated effluent is returned in conformity
with existing environmental standards to watercourses within Jefferson County.

In the near future, a major overhaul and extension of sewer lines will be complete,
average treatment capacity will rise to 275 million gallons per day, and a system of
natural buffers along the county’s streams will be in place, improving the contribution
made by the sanitary system to economic development, environmental protection, and
community recreation within Jefferson County.

Bringing about these results has required -- and continues to require -- a significant
commitment of resources. Investment in the current sewer improvement plan is expected
to exceed $2 billion by the year 2007, and operating expenditures for the sanitary system
now run over $130 million a year, when debt service is included. Most of the
improvement work is done by private contractors, but supervising construction and
ensuring that the system continues to operate within the standards set by state and federal
agencies is the job of 677 employees in the County's Environmental Services
Department, under the direction of the Commissioner of Environmental Services.

To finance improvements on this scale, Jefferson County has to have the ability to
borrow funds, and it is crucial that the County maintains the trust of the investment
community. Methods to ensure that this happens have been developed by the County's
Finance Department under the direction of the Commission Chairman.

It is also crucial that the County keeps the trust of the ratepayer. Most of the money to
improve and operate the sanitary system comes from user fees. Many other large
communities also finance their sewer systems in this way, making it possible to compare
them. The data continue to show that Jefferson County's sewer fees are reasonable. In
the year 2000, a typical residential customer using 1,000 cubic feet of water per month
paid only $21.08 for sewer services in Jefferson County, which was likely to be far less
than his monthly cable TV bill. The rates also compare favorably with those in other
metropolitan communities.

The story of how these improvements have come to be built and maintained is important
to those who have an interest in the future of Jefferson County and, indeed, of Alabama.
It has rightly been said that those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it. There
are many lessons to be learned from examining the historical development of the
Jefferson County Sanitary Sewer System, and they apply to all public services, not just to
sewage treatment. Two of them stand out from the rest.



                                              4
1. Responsibility and accountability go together. The first lesson is that we can't hold a
governmental agency accountable for results unless we also give it the authority
necessary for success. As early as the 1870s, Jefferson County began to experience
health and environmental problems from lack of sanitation. These problems were in fact
a major factor in the growth of the City of Birmingham from a number of smaller
communities within Jones Valley. By 1901, it was evident that only a countywide sewer
system would serve the needs of Jefferson County, and the Legislature passed legislation
to create such a system.

However, the law didn't go far enough. It divided the responsibility for sewer lines
among the County and a growing number of municipalities. The County ran the
wastewater treatment plants and trunk lines, but it didn't control those who tapped into its
trunk lines; the cities ran lateral lines to homes and businesses but had little incentive to
view them as a major issue, since their job was simply to transport sewage to the
County's trunk lines for disposal. Maintenance suffered under the divided system, and
this didn't change until the County proposed sewer unification as part of a 1996 consent
agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Since 1998, the County has
been responsible for developing the capacity within a unified sanitary system to process
the volume of waste generated within Jefferson County while meeting environmental
standards.

The lesson that accountability and responsibility must go hand in hand still hasn't been
learned by those who oppose more general home rule powers for county governments in
Alabama. It is a fundamental issue of good government that anyone who studies the
history of the Jefferson County Sanitary Sewer System would come to understand.

2. You get what you pay for -- if you have good leadership. The second lesson is that
there is no free lunch. The existence of a sanitary sewer system that can meet stringent
environmental standards at reasonable cost is, in a technical sense, a miracle of modern
engineering. Few understand its complexity or appreciate the requirements for
maintaining it adequately, and the facilities are for the most part underground or out of
sight. As a result, the community has regularly fallen for the temptation to ignore its
needs until the economic or environmental consequences reach crisis proportions. In the
1950s, a farmer told the County Commission he wouldn't even let his cows drink out of
the creeks, and the County Health Officer warned people not to swim in the streams. In
the 1970s, sewer moratoriums halted development in the growing parts of the county. In
the 1990s, an environmental lawsuit led to a consent decree requiring continual
maintenance.

The history of the system reveals regular cycles of crisis and response. But it also shows
a continual process of improvement, and many fine examples of leadership in bringing
together financial and organizational resources to produce the results that citizens want
from a sanitary system. Today the system is undoubtedly in the best condition that it has
ever enjoyed, and the improvement plans promise to make it even better. The challenge
for the future is to maintain a sanitary sewer system that is always an asset to the
development of the county rather than a liability. This will require continued leadership
of the highest order from the County Commission and the departments of county

                                              5
government, and public understanding of the value that such a system brings to the
community.

The remaining chapters of this report describe the historical development of the Jefferson
County Sanitary Sewer System. Four appendices provide more detail on the history of
treatment plants, collection lines, organizational structure, and finances.


  FIGURE 3                                TREATMENT FACILITIES OF THE SANITARY SEWER SYSTEM


                                                                                           8
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                                                       SH       SHA




1 – The Village Creek wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) receives wastewater from the
    central Birmingham area and has a design capacity allowing it to process 60 million
    gallons per day (MGD).
2 – The Valley Creek WWTP (65 MGD) receives wastewater from Bessemer, Fairfield,
    Hueytown, Midfield, and Pleasant Grove, as well as the Shades Valley basin.
3 – The Five Mile Creek WWTP (20 MGD) receives wastewater from an area including
    Gardendale, Fultondale, Tarrant City, Roebuck, and Center Point.
4 – The Cahaba River WWTP (12 MGD) receives wastewater from the Hoover, Vestavia
    Hills, and Cahaba Heights areas.
5 – The Turkey Creek WWTP (4 MGD) receives wastewater from the Pinson area.
6 – The Norman R. Skinner WWTP (5 MGD) processes wastewater from Leeds.
7 – The Trussville WWTP (4.5 MGD) receives wastewater from the Trussville area.
8 – The Warrior WWTP (0.1 MGD) serves the City of Warrior.
9 – The Prudes Creek WWTP (0.6 MGD) serves Graysville and Adamsville.


                                                                           6
                                      CHAPTER 2

                       HISTORICAL ROOTS OF THE
               JEFFERSON COUNTY SANITARY SEWER SYSTEM

Jefferson County was established by an Act of the State Legislature on December 13,
1819, which formed it from portions of Blount and Tuscaloosa counties. Elyton Village,
a small settlement in the center of Jones Valley, became the county seat in 1821.
Agriculture was the primary industry in Alabama at the time, and the County's population
growth was initially slow because its soil was considered less suited for agriculture than
other regions in the state. There were no transportation arteries through the area, and the
great mineral resources of the County remained undiscovered.

Jefferson County’s population was 6,855 in the Census of 1830; fifty years later, in 1880,
it had not yet reached 24,000. Rapid growth began in the 1880s, as the County became a
railroad hub, the area’s industrial potential became reality, and its urban center developed
into a major city with a number of suburbs. The County’s population grew rapidly for
eight decades, surpassing 630,000 in 1960 before the growth rate slowed down. Chart 2-
1 shows the dramatic increase in population that began around 1880. It was in this
environment of rapid growth that the need for a sanitary sewer system in the area became
urgent at the start of the twentieth century and continued to require investment thereafter.

                                        CHART 2-1

                       Population of Jefferson County, 1830 - 2000
            700,000

            600,000

            500,000

            400,000

            300,000

            200,000

            100,000

                   0
                    18 0
                    18 0
                    18 0
                    18 0
                    18 0
                    18 0
                    19 0
                       00
                    19 0
                       20
                    19 0
                    19 0
                    19 0
                       60
                    19 0
                       80
                    20 0
                       00
                       3
                       4
                       5
                       6
                       7
                       8
                       9

                       1

                       3
                       4
                       5

                       7

                       9
                    18




                    19

                    19




                    19

                    19




The coming of the railroads. In 1854, a number of influential Alabamians met at a
barbecue in Elyton. One of their purposes was to promote the building of two railroads
that would pass through Jefferson County. The first of these, the Northeast & Southwest
Road (later known as the Alabama Great Southern), would connect Meridian, Mississippi


                                             7
with Chattanooga, Tennessee. The second, a line of the South & North Road, was
designed to link the Tennessee and Alabama Rivers, thus uniting the mineral sections of
the state with its navigable waterways. 1 Construction on these railroads was started
before the Civil War but not completed until after 1870. The coming of the railroads
helped to open the County to industrial development and facilitated the growth of the
County’s population.

Discovery of mineral deposits and industrial development. Discovery of the County’s
large deposits of iron ore, coal, and limestone in the 1860s led to the development of
industrial activity. The first iron furnaces began to operate in Oxmoor and Irondale
between 1860 and 1863, producing iron for the wartime needs of the Confederate Army.
While these early furnaces were destroyed during the Civil War, a permanent foundation
for the coal and iron industries was laid between 1868 and 1873 with the construction of
iron works and the opening of coal mines in the County. 2

Early iron production used charcoal as a fuel, but Daniel Pratt moved to Jefferson County
in 1872 and organized a search for good coking coal. A rich seam was discovered in the
Warrior area by the Pratt Coal and Coke Company, owned by Pratt’s son-in-law Henry
Debardeleben along with Truman H. Aldrich and J. W. Sloss. In 1878, the first coke pig
iron was made at the company’s Oxmoor furnaces, and in 1879, large-scale production of
pig iron began at the Alice Furnaces.

In the following years, hundreds of coking ovens were built and iron production became
the major component of the Birmingham area’s economic base. A major building boom
occurred in the County in the 1880s; during the fifteen-month span between January 1886
and March 1887, twelve blast furnaces were constructed, mainly in the area between
Birmingham and Bessemer. In 1886, the Tennessee Coal, Iron, and Railroad Company
(TCI) began to purchase the properties of independent producers, and it became the major
player in the industry. By 1890, Alabama ranked fourth among all states in pig iron
production. 3

In the 1890s, interest in the region shifted toward producing steel. Commercial
production of iron for use in producing steel began in 1895, and soon steel-making plants
were constructed in the area. TCI began to produce steel in a ten-furnace plant at the end
of 1899 and inaugurated a new plant with four 100-ton furnaces in 1908. Shortly
thereafter, TCI was bought by the United States Steel Corporation.

Municipal growth and recognition of the need for sanitation. The City of
Birmingham was founded at the intersection of the Northeast & Southwest and the South
& North Railroads, receiving its charter from the Alabama Legislature in 1871. Colonel
James R. Powell, president of the Elyton Land Company, promoted the new city
worldwide through letters and circulars. His public relations campaign worked; the
London Times, for example, carried a story which declared that “Birmingham, Ala. is
destined to be America’s greatest metallic-workers’ city.”

However, the City’s very existence was soon threatened by a cholera epidemic in 1873



                                            8
that killed approximately 500 people and led another 1,500 to leave, reducing
Birmingham's population from 4,000 to 2,000. 4 While the disease was imported from
other parts of the region, Birmingham's poor sanitary practices and the lack of a
wastewater system aggravated the situation and were at least partially to blame for
allowing an isolated case of cholera to turn into an epidemic. In histories of this time
period, most first-hand accounts of the crisis note that the lack of wastewater facilities
was a major factor in the severity of the epidemic. 5

In the year following the epidemic, Birmingham began construction of a water works
system to assure the city a sanitary supply of drinking water; but it was 1885 before city
authorities began work on a sewage system. Dr. J.B. Luckie, a State Senator and one of
the physicians who nursed Birmingham through the epidemic, fathered the bill
authorizing the City to issue bonds for the construction of sewers and was active in
establishing the sewage system. 6 From 1885 to 1888, Birmingham built over fifteen
miles of sanitary and storm sewers at a cost of about $5,000 per mile, using a method also
employed in Philadelphia, Chicago, Memphis, and other large cities at the time. 7 Known
as the Waring System of Sewerage, it employed underground flush tanks to force
drainage through a system of brick sewers. The sewers, which were regularly flushed,
emptied untreated sewage into Valley Creek, two miles south of Birmingham, which
eventually flowed into the Warrior River.

The new system was considered a boon to the health and continued prosperity of
Birmingham and its citizens, but the region's sanitary problems were far from being
resolved. With the rapid industrial development underway in Jones Valley, many small
communities grew and then incorporated as municipalities in the area surrounding the
central city of Birmingham. These towns, many of which are still recognizable today as
neighborhoods within the City of Birmingham, all took care of their own sewage disposal
independently. By 1900, there were eighteen incorporated towns in Jefferson County
(Avondale, Bessemer, Birmingham, Boyles, Brighton, East Lake, Elyton, Ensley,
Fairfield, Graymont, Inglenook, Lipscomb, North Birmingham, North Haven, Pratt City,
West End, Woodlawn, and Wylam), each discharging its untreated sewage into the
nearest, most convenient water course. This created a health and environmental crisis
that increased as the urbanized area grew. 8

A constitutional advantage for counties. City governments had insufficient financial
power under Alabama’s 1875 Constitution to respond to this situation by constructing an
adequate system of sanitation. Drafted in response to the excesses of reconstruction-era
government in the state, the Constitution placed strict limitations on both state and local
taxing powers. Property taxes were the only large source of tax revenue available to
state, city, and county governments of the time, and the Constitution of 1875 limited the
taxation of property value as follows:

       •   the Legislature could levy up to 7.5 mills of property taxes,
       •   county governments could levy another five mills, and
       •   municipal governments could levy another five mills.




                                              9
Counties also were authorized to levy up to 2.5 mills, and municipalities up to 10 mills,
to retire debt that existed at the time of the ratification of the Constitution. In addition,
counties were given the following taxing power, with legislative approval:

   to pay any debt or liability now existing … or that may hereafter be created for the
   erection of necessary public buildings or bridges, any county may levy and collect such
                                                                             9
   special taxes as may have been, or might thereafter be authorized by law.

Cities had no such “escape clause” from the ironclad property tax limits in the
Constitution of 1875, and it was not until 1907, under a new constitution, that the
Legislature would write a home-rule act that gave cities great freedom to exploit non-
property tax sources.

It was of course not clear from the constitutional language that a sanitary sewer system
would be considered a “necessary public building,” nor was there legislative
authorization prior to 1901 that would allow Jefferson County to finance such a system.
But the presence of this constitutional provision did give the County a potential financial
advantage as the sponsor for a public system of sanitation.

The County’s preliminary engineering survey. As early as 1895, citizens began
lobbying Jefferson County’s governing body, then known as the Board of Revenue, for a
unified system of sewer construction and sewage treatment. On October 9, 1900, a
committee of citizens came before the Board, as delegates from a mass meeting, to
request a study of sanitary conditions in the County. On the advice of the Jefferson
County Board of Health, the Board of Revenue found it

    absolutely necessary for the preservation of the health of this county that some
    disposition must be made of the sewerage from the different municipalities in Jones
    Valley, and from North Birmingham, Pratt City, and Ensley….

Accordingly, the Board decided to hire an engineer, at a cost not to exceed $1,000, to
conduct a survey of the cost and feasibility of constructing a trunk line sewer through
Jones Valley to connect the various branch sewer lines already built, and to make
recommendations on the issue. 10

Julian Kendrick, who was at the time the city engineer for Birmingham, was hired by the
Board of Revenue to conduct the study. His report, presented to the Board on November
10, 1900, recommended two trunk lines, each terminating into a sewage purification
plant, one located in the Village Creek drainage basin and the other in the Valley Creek
drainage basin. He recommended that the sewage treatment plants utilize a double
filtration method, in which the sewage would pass through a grit chamber, a screening
chamber, and two filter beds. He developed specifications for the two plants and used
population projections to estimate the costs over a period of years at $523,785, of which
$448,785 would be required immediately, with the rest required over time as population
increased. 11




                                              10
Enabling legislation for a county sanitary system: Act 714 of 1901. The Board of
Revenue formally petitioned the State Legislature to adopt enabling legislation to
construct and finance an integrated sanitary system. Minutes of the Board of Revenue
from November 16, 1900 show that its members reviewed drafts of the proposed
legislation and suggested improvements. 12 Their request was granted quickly. On
February 28, 1901, the Governor approved Act 714, which constituted Jefferson County
as a Sanitary District and created a Sanitary Commission composed of eleven citizens of
Jefferson County to govern the operations of the District. 13

The Act authorized the Sanitary Commission to build and maintain one trunk sewer line
from a point at or near Birmingham to a point below Bessemer, which would become
known as the Valley Creek Sewer, and another trunk line from a point at or near East
Lake to a point below Ensley, which would become known as the Village Creek Sewer,
along with any branch lines it deemed advisable. The Sanitary Commission also was
given the authority to build sewage treatment plants and to acquire land for the sanitary
system by purchase, gift, or condemnation.

The Sanitary Commission was not allowed to construct a branch line within municipal
limits for the exclusive benefit of that municipality. Each municipality was to be
financially responsible for local sewer construction necessary to tie into the Sanitary
Commission’s system. Municipalities were required to connect their local sewers to a
trunk or branch line of the Sanitary Commission when available, and it was made illegal
for a municipality to allow the use of a sewer not so connected. The Sanitary
Commission was given the power to regulate connections into its sewer lines by
individuals, corporations, and municipalities.

The Sanitary Commission was given the duty to protect from pollution all streams and
water courses from which any municipality or community drew some or all of its water
supply. The Act made it unlawful for a person, corporation, or municipality to build a
drain or sewer that would pollute the waters of the County, except with the approval of
the Sanitary Commission. Enforcement of the Sanitary Commission’s powers was to be
through court injunction or restraining order.

The Sanitary Commission was authorized to hire engineers and other employees as it saw
fit, and to undertake the work of constructing and maintaining a sewage system either
through its own employees or by contract.

The Act provided for a sanitary fund in the county treasury, and called for all funds of the
Sanitary Commission to be managed by the County Treasurer. To expend money, the
Sanitary Commission would request the County Board of Revenue to authorize the
Treasurer to issue warrants on the sanitary fund.

Funding for the sanitary system: Act 716 of 1901. On the same day he signed Act
714, the Governor also approved Act 716, which was designed to provide funds for the
construction of sewers and operation of the sanitary system. 14 The Act authorized and
required the Board of Revenue of Jefferson County to issue negotiable bonds in an



                                            11
amount not exceeding $500,000 for sanitation purposes. These bonds were to be sold by
the Sanitary Commission. The Act also required the Board of Revenue to levy and set
aside a County property tax of 0.5 mills in 1901 “and each and every year thereafter” to
pay interest on the bonds, maintain a sanitary system, and protect water supplies, with
“the surplus, if any, to be used by the said board of revenue for the payment of the
principal of said bonds.” The proceeds of the tax would be placed in a sanitary fund to be
used for the purposes authorized. The Act then provided that “the sanitary fund shall be
supplemented whenever and as often as is necessary out of moneys in the treasury
otherwise unappropriated.”

Validation of the sanitary system by the courts. The Board of Revenue instructed its
attorney, E.J. Smyer, who was also a member of the Sanitary Commission, to seek a court
decision on the constitutionality of Acts 714 and 716. 15 Smyer later described the two
cases that evolved as “friendly” lawsuits, 16 but the position taken by the Board of
Revenue in court may indicate concern with the language in Act 716 that called for the
sanitary fund to be supplemented whenever necessary from the general revenues of the
County. Lurking behind this requirement, of course, was the constitutional provision
allowing a county to levy any taxes authorized by law to pay a liability for “necessary
public buildings or bridges.” The Board may have been concerned that the requirements
for the sanitary system would consume so much of its discretionary revenue that it would
be unable to carry out its other duties, and that state legislators would be unwilling to
grant additional taxing power to overcome such a problem.

Two lawsuits arose. In the first, Madeline Keene, a resident citizen and taxpayer of
Jefferson County, argued that the construction of a sanitary system and the half-mill tax
to pay for it were unconstitutional because:

    the building thereof is not a county or governmental undertaking and … it is proposed
    in the construction of the sewerage to build it in a limited portion of the county while
                                                                              17
    the burden of its construction rests upon all the citizens of the county.

In its 1902 opinion in the case of Keene v. Jefferson County, 18 the Alabama Supreme
Court held that Act 714 fulfilled a valid governmental purpose and served the needs of all
residents of Jefferson County, for which general taxation was appropriate:

    It is shown that about two-thirds of the population of Jefferson County, or more
    than 100,000 people, live in the two valleys and at the foothills, through which
    the trunk lines of the sewers are proposed to be run, and that three-fourths in value of all
    the property in the county is within the area of drainage covered by these two trunk
    lines of sewer. The system in its beneficial effects, extends to the entire county for the
    protection of its water courses from pollution, and was intended to meet not only the
    present needs but to fulfill in the future, the requirements of sanitation and health in
    cities and towns, and in all the thickly settled portions of the county. The health of the
    valleys drained is of great importance to every citizen of the county, in preventing the
    spread of contagious and infectious diseases throughout its borders. The prevention of
    diseases is oftener better and cheaper than to cure them when they come… [Thus, the
    sanitary system] is a health system in which all the people of the county are more or
    less interested. It is no more local than a county road or bridge to open, build or


                                                12
     improve which, the inhabitants of Birmingham… remote from the improvements are
     taxed the same as those who live in their immediate localities, and who are most
     benefited.

The logic of the Court put the sanitary system on the same level as public buildings,
roads, and bridges, which were generally understood to be the governmental
responsibility of the County and the financial obligation of all County taxpayers.

The second court case, decided by the Alabama Supreme Court in the same month as the
first, established the constitutionality of the sewage bonds and the principle that payment
was secured not only by the special tax established to help pay off any bonds, but also by
the general taxing power of the County. A lawsuit was brought by Birmingham Trust &
Savings Company, which had purchased $20,000 of bonds issued by the Sanitary
Commission in furtherance of the authority provided by Acts 714 and 716. These bonds
were issued and sold as general obligations of Jefferson County, with the claim that they
were backed by the full taxing power of the County rather than simply by the special tax
authorized under Act 716.

In its opinion in the case of Birmingham Trust & Savings Company v. Jefferson
County, 19 the Court held that the bonds were valid since Act 716 required that they were
to be obligations of Jefferson County and were to be payable out of the County’s general
funds. E.J. Smyer, attorney for the Board of Revenue, argued to the Court that the bonds
could not be claims upon the general funds of the County, but rather had to be paid solely
from the sanitary fund. The Court disagreed with his reading of Act 716. Its opinion
sided with the opposing arguments of James Weatherly, who was (like Smyer) a member
of the Sanitary Commission. He argued that the special tax was intended as additional
security for the bonds, that the bonds were general obligations of the County, and that the
principal was payable out of the general revenues of the County by the terms of Act 716.

Thus, in November of 1902, Jefferson County was in the position to begin development
of a sanitary sewer system.
1
  “Founding of Birmingham,” Author Unknown. Teeple and Smith, Jefferson County and Birmingham,
Alabama: Historical and Biographical, Birmingham: Caldwell Printing Works, 1887. John Witherspoon
DuBose, “Birmingham,”in Northern Alabama: Historical and Biographical, Spartanburg, SC: The
Reprint Company, Publishers, 1976.
2
  J.W. Goodwin Engineering Company, Inc., Engineering Report and Bond Prospectus in Connection
with the Financing of $10,000,000 of Collecting Sewers and Sewage Treatment Works for Jefferson
County, Alabama, 1951.
3
  Ibid.
4
  John C. Henley, Jr., This is Birmingham: The Story of the Founding and Growth of an American City,
Southern University Press, 1960. Lula M. Johnston, “Birmingham.”
5
  “Cholera Epidemic,” Author Unknown.
6
  George M. Cruikshank, A History of Birmingham and its Environs, Chicago: The Lewis Publishing
Company, 1920.
7
  Malcolm C. McMillan, Yesterday’s Birmingham, Miami: E.A. Seemann Publishing, Inc., 1975.
8
  J.W. Goodwin Engineering Company, Engineering Report and Bond Prospectus in Connection with the
Financing of $10,000,000 of Collecting Sewers and Sewage Treatment Works for Jefferson County,
Alabama, 1951.
9
  Constitution of Alabama of 1875, Article XI, Taxation, Sections 4, 5, and 7.


                                                13
10
   Minutes of the Jefferson County Board of Revenue, October 9, 1900.
11
   Minutes of the Jefferson County Board of Revenue, November 10, 1900.
12
   Minutes of the Jefferson County Board of Revenue, November 16, 1900.
13
   Acts of the General Assembly of Alabama, 1900-1901, pages 1702-1719.
14
   Acts of the General Assembly of Alabama, 1900-1901, pages 1722-1728.
15
   Minutes of the Jefferson County Board of Revenue, November 20, 1902.
16
   “History of Construction of the First Trunk Line Sewers in Jefferson County,” reprint from an article in
The Birmingham Record, October 1939, attributed to E.J. Smyer, A.W. Smith, and James J. Smith, who
were the surviving members of the Jefferson County Sanitary Commission.
17
   Haralson J. Keene v. Jefferson County, 33 So. 435, January 20, 1903.
18
   135 Alabama 465, 33 So. 435.
19
   137 Alabama 375, 34 So. 398.




                                                     14
                                      CHAPTER 3

                  THE ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF THE
          JEFFERSON COUNTY SANITARY COMMISSION, 1901-1909

Act 714 conferred the responsibility for creating a sanitary water and sewer system upon
the Jefferson County Sanitary Commission. The Sanitary Commission then set out
energetically to carry out its statutory mandate. From 1901 until 1909, when its powers
were transferred to the Jefferson County Board of Revenue, the Sanitary Commission
laid the foundation of the Jefferson County Sanitary Sewer System.

Organization of the Commission. Eleven men were appointed by name as Sanitary
Commissioners in Act 714 – Frank Y. Anderson, N.E. Barber, James Bowron, James M.
Gillespy, M.V. Joseph, Chambers McArthery, W.J. Milner, C.A. Nolan, Arthur W.
Smith, James J. Smith, and James Weatherly. The Commissioners were given nine-year
staggered terms, after a phase-in period during which one member’s term ended each
year. The law authorized the Commission to elect successors as well as fill vacancies,
making it a self-perpetuating body. No member was allowed to serve more than ten years
in total.

The Act forbade any Sanitary Commissioner from being “…pecuniarily interested in the
sale of any material to the said Commission or in the sale of any material or supplies to
any contractor or sub-contractor to be used on or in furtherance of the work to be let by
said Commission.” Because of this, three of those appointed declined to serve. Barber
was president of the National Bank of Commerce, which might be interested in the
financing of sewer bonds; Bowron was director and stockholder in a pipe corporation;
and Milner was director of a plumbing supplies corporation. Thomas H. Molton, E.J.
Smyer, and E.M. Tutwiler were elected by the Commission to fill the three vacancies.

Frank Anderson was elected chairman of the Sanitary Commission, a position he held
until the body was dissolved. 1

Engineering supervision. Julian Kendrick, who was at the time city engineer of
Birmingham, was selected by the Commission as its engineer. Kendrick had earlier
conducted a study of the county’s sanitary requirements for the Board of Revenue, and he
proceeded to develop plans for a sanitary sewer system. The plan called for two trunk
lines.

A trunk line was planned to extend down the watershed of Valley Creek, commencing at
the western limit of Birmingham (about 6th Street) and running about fifteen miles to a
point below Bessemer, where a septic tank or purification plant would be built. The
Valley Creek line was to be built to support an eventual population of 389,000, with
pipeline diameters of four to five feet; the treatment plant would be built to handle
current loads, then expanded as demand increased.




                                           15
A second trunk line was planned to extend down the watershed of Village Creek,
commencing in East Lake and running to a point below Ensley, where a septic tank or
purification plant would be built. This line was to be built to support an eventual
population of 330,500, with pipeline diameters of two to four feet; the plant would be
built to support current demand and expanded as required.

Before accepting Kendrick’s recommendations, the Commission sent a committee to
several other cities to inspect sewage treatment plants. It also hired Samuel Gray, a
nationally recognized sanitary engineer, to review the plans and specifications. Mr. Gray
spent about a month on the ground and approved the plans as drafted. 2

During the period from 1901 until 1909, the Sanitary Commission spent $37,371 on
engineering services, according to its final report to the Board of Revenue.

Construction program. Construction contracts were negotiated beginning in 1902 on
the two trunk lines, three branch lines into cities not located near one of the lines, and the
septic tanks that provided sewage treatment at the end of each trunk line. Minutes of the
Board of Revenue indicate that the first contracts were for construction of the Valley
Creek line. This trunk line was completed by 1905, at a cost of $282,024. It extended
fifteen miles from the western limit of Birmingham to a point two miles below Bessemer.
A branch line to Bessemer, which was then about one mile distant from the trunk line,
also was completed by 1905, at a cost of $11,564. The Sanitary Commission acquired
105 acres of land at the end of the trunk line and there constructed six plain, uncovered
septic tanks, each 20 by 100 feet in plan and 12 feet in depth, at a cost of $23,707. In
total, $317,296 was spent to construct the Valley Creek sewer line. 3

Around 1904, construction began on the Village Creek line, which ran about ten miles
from a point near the town of East Lake to a point below the town of Pratt City. The cost
for this trunk line was $107,966, according to the final report of the Sanitary
Commission. Branch lines were constructed to the towns of Avondale and Woodlawn,
which were not on the main line, at a cost of $34,750. The Sanitary Commission
purchased 20 acres of land for a treatment site at the terminal point of the trunk line, and
spent $6,381 to construct one or more septic tanks. In total, then, it appears that
$149,098 was spent to construct the Village Creek sewer line. 4

The septic tanks built at the end of these sewer trunk lines were at the time the largest in
the United States, according to Morris Knowles, a consulting engineer experienced in
water supply and sewage systems in the southern and northeastern U.S. 5 Table 3-1, on
the following page, shows the average capacity of these plants to process wastewater,
measured in millions of gallons per day.

In addition to the construction costs, the Sanitary Commission paid $8,430 for right-of-
way and real estate on the two trunk lines. While most of the right-of-way was donated
by the owners, the Sanitary Commission had to use its power of eminent domain in some
instances, primarily where joint ownership created a situation in which no one had the
authority to donate. The Sanitary Commission purchased the land on which both plants



                                             16
were located. 6 Table 3-2, below, shows the expenditures for improvements to the
sanitary sewer system during this period.

                                         TABLE 3-1

                                     Jefferson County
                            Treatment Plant Average Capacity
                              in Millions of Gallons Per Day
                                            1909

                                 Valley Creek            3.0
                                 Village Creek           0.5

                                 Total                   3.5

                                         TABLE 3-2

                                   Jefferson County
                             Sewer Improvement Contracts
                                       1901-1909

                             Valley Creek Basin    $   317,296
                             Village Creek Basin       149,098

                             Total                 $   466,394


Operation and maintenance of the sanitary system. The Sanitary Commission spent
$13,150 on operation and maintenance of the sanitary system during the period from
1901 to 1909. These activities consisted of operating the septic tanks, making sure the
conduits were free from obstruction, and occasional inspection of all lines and manhole
covers, especially after heavy rains.

A payroll chart for the month of October 1901 shows seventeen people receiving a
paycheck from the Engineering Department of the Sanitary Commission. These included
three engineers, two draftsmen, six survey party members, and six "axemen." The
monthly payroll totaled $789. 7

The Village Creek plant in 1909 was processing less than 500,000 gallons of sewage per
day and required minimal care and attention, according to the final report of the
Sanitation Commission.

The Valley Creek plant, on the other hand, was processing three million gallons per day
at the time. In 1905, the Sanitary Commission had contracted with Adler and Company
to manage the plant for 99 years. Under the terms of the contract, Adler was allowed use
of the 105-acre tract of land and the outflow of the treatment plant (presumably for
agricultural operations using the effluent as a source of water and nutrients), in
consideration for which it would reimburse the County for the cost of the plant and pay
the manager. The County retained “the exclusive right to direct at all times the mode and
manner of [plant] operations and maintenance” and to take custody of plant operation at


                                             17
any time it saw fit, thereby terminating the financial arrangement. Under the terms of
this agreement, still in effect in 1909, Adler and Company reimbursed the County
$22,690 for the costs of constructing the Valley Creek plant. 8

Sewer system finances. Act 716 called for a property tax of 0.5 mills to support the
sanitary system and authorized borrowing of up to $500,000 for initial construction of
sewer facilities. The Board of Revenue levied a tax of 0.25 mills in 1901 and 0.5 mills in
the years thereafter. Table 3-3, below, shows the revenue received and expenditures
made during the last three years of the period. In addition, bonds in the amount of
$400,000 were issued to finance facility construction during the period.

                                            TABLE 3-3

                   Jefferson County Sewer System Finances, 1907-1909

                                     1907               1908              1909
               Revenues
               Property Tax        $ 28,543          $ 37,325           $ 44,127

               Expenditures
               Expenditures       $ 62,710           $ 37,114           $ 24,728

               Source:
               Minutes of the Jefferson County Board of Revenue, March 16, 1910


Protection of water supplies. The Sanitary Commission was directed by Act 714 to
improve water supply conditions within the County. After the contracts for sewer
construction were let, the Commission turned to this task. At the time, the Birmingham
Water Works Company supplied water to the City of Birmingham, using water from the
east and west branches of the Cahaba River and from Five Mile Creek. The water
furnished the City was frequently muddy, had a bad taste, and needed substantial
improvement. The Sanitary Commission hired Samuel Gray, who had reviewed sewer
construction plans, to investigate and make recommendations. Inspections of the two
watersheds revealed a number of nuisances that led to pollution of the water. Many of
these nuisances were terminated at the request of the Sanitary Commission, but in some
instances it was required to institute court proceedings to force their abatement. The
Sanitary Commission also sent water samples to Auburn for analysis, and upon its
finding that the water was impure, the Birmingham Water Works Company installed
purification plants to cure the problem. According to the final report of the Sanitary
Commission, a total of $4,511 was spent on these activities. 9

Involvement in the creation of “Greater Birmingham.” Even though the initial sewer
system was largely complete by 1906 and municipalities were required by Act 714 to
connect their sewers to the County's main trunk and branch lines, sanitation in Jefferson
County was not uniform. Birmingham had begun to develop sewer connections to
residences and businesses in the 1880s, and by 1905 it had 58 miles of sewer lines.
However, most of the small municipalities in the county did not have sanitary sewers at


                                               18
all, and even within Birmingham there were a large number of privies in areas that had
sewer connections, due to the lack of a mandatory hookup requirement. 10 It was
estimated that 50,000 people living in and around Birmingham were still not being served
by the sewage system.

In 1906, at the suggestion of the Sanitary Commission, the Commercial Club of
Birmingham nominated a Greater Birmingham Commission, which drafted legislation to
annex surrounding municipalities and unincorporated areas into Birmingham. Improving
sanitation in Jefferson County was one of the main reasons behind the push for this
legislation to create Greater Birmingham, as indicated in the following comments by
Senator Henry P. Merritt of Tuskegee in July 1907:

    The legislature realized the gravity of the situation several years ago when a law was
    enacted creating a Jefferson County sanitary committee with the power to construct a
    sanitary trunk sewer from one end of Jones Valley to the other. But the cry is
    constantly going up, “What is the use of passing a law if you do not enforce it?” Then,
    why did the legislature make it possible for the County of Jefferson to have a sanitary
    sewer and then not confer upon the commission the authority to force connections?
    Now the only way to make effective the sanitary sewerage system is to unite the County
    under one government. As a citizen of Alabama, who entertains a laudable wish to see
    it given credit for the Metropolis of the South, I favor Greater Birmingham.

Proponents of the bill sought through annexation to create a unified sewer system and
improve sanitation among the residents of the Birmingham area. When the proposal was
under consideration by the State Senate on July 29, 1907, eighty-one physicians sent the
following petition to each Alabama Senator:

    To the Alabama State Senate:

    We the undersigned physicians of Birmingham, Alabama, most urgently request you,
    on behalf of the people of the entire citizenship of this city and the adjoining towns, to
    pass the King Greater Birmingham bill now pending before your body.

    We are now afflicted with local epidemic of typhoid fever, and unless all this territory is
    put under our city government and the sanitation is urgently enforced we may suffer
    terrible consequences in the future from the ravages of said epidemic. We regard the
    passage of this bill as absolutely necessary for the public safety.

The Greater Birmingham bill was enacted into law on August 8, 1907, incorporating
eleven municipalities and a substantial unincorporated area into the City of Birmingham
as of October 1, 1909. In December 1909, the State Supreme Court declared the act
constitutional. 11 With this large increase in its area and population, Birmingham became
the fourth largest city in the South, behind New Orleans, Louisville, and Atlanta.

Dissolution of the Sanitary Commission. Act 48 of 1909 conferred upon the Board of
Revenue of Jefferson County all the powers and duties of the Jefferson County Sanitary
Commission. With the enactment of this brief law, the Sanitary Commission was
dissolved on September 19, 1909. The demise of this agency after only eight years was


                                                19
clearly premature: the terms of Act 714, for example, gave members nine-year terms.
However, the final report of the Sanitary Commission, presented on September 9, 1909,
did not discuss Act 48 or the reasons for the transfer of authority.

Thirty years later, the three surviving members of the Sanitary Commission wrote that the
Commission itself requested the Legislature to adopt Act 48 because its primary work
had been completed and its continuation required an expense of $100 per month for a
part-time engineer, a part-time secretary, and an office. Their article stated that the Board
of Revenue also had an engineer, a clerk, and an office and could absorb the functions of
the Sanitary Commission. 12 However, Morris Knowles, a knowledgeable consulting
engineer, wrote in 1912:

    This stage of the work [to create an adequate sanitary system for Jefferson County]
    completed, the sanitary commission was unfortunately dissolved, and its authority
    passed into the hands of the Jefferson County Board of Revenue, a body not constituted
                                                                          13
    nor chosen as to have special knowledge or interest in such subjects.

Figure 4 shows the sanitary sewer system in place as of 1909.

The dissolution of the Sanitary Commission marks the end of the first chapter in the
history of the Jefferson County Sanitary Sewer System.


  FIGURE 4                                               THE SANITARY SEWER SYSTEM IN 1909


                                                               RK
                                                             FO
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                                                        CU                          RK
                                                                                      EY
                                                      LO                                   CR
                                                                                             .
                                                    FIV                                             N
                                                       E                                         AI
                                                           MI
                                                              LE                              UNT
                                                                   CR
                                                                     .                      MO
                         R                                                             ND
                                                                                     SA
                       VE
                                                     PRUDES CR.

                     RI                      VIL
                                                LAG
                 R                                 EC
                O
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                                                                          1
            AR
           W                                                                                                R
      CK               VA                                             EY                                 IVE
    LA
                         LL
                           EY                                       LL                                BAR
   B                            CR                               VA         AI
                                                                              N
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                                  .                       NE
                                                              S
                                                                        NT                        CA
                                                        JO           OU
                                            2                       M
                                                                 D
                                                              RE EY
                                                                LL
                                       T.
                                      M




                                                             VA
                                     CK




                                                           S                          1. VILLAGE CREEK LINE &
                                                        DE
                                  RO




                                                                          N
                                                     HA                AI                PLANT
                                                    S
                                                                   U NT
                                                        .
                                                      CR       M
                                                                  O
                                                                                   2. VALLEY CREEK LINE & PLANT
                                                  ES         S
                                                AD        DE
                                              SH      SHA




                                                                     20
1
  “History of Construction of the First Trunk Line Sewers in Jefferson County,” reprint from an article in
The Birmingham Record, October 1939, attributed to E.J. Smyer, A.W. Smith, and James J. Smith, who
were the surviving members of the Jefferson County Sanitary Commission.
2
  Ibid.
3
  Final Report of the Jefferson County Sanitary Commission to the Jefferson County Board of Revenue, as
contained in the minutes of the Jefferson County Board of Revenue, September 9, 1909; Weldon Cooper,
Metropolitan County: A Survey of Government in the Birmingham Area, Bureau of Public
Administration, University of Alabama, 1949; and “History of the Developments of the Sewerage System
of Jefferson County,” compiled for the Jefferson County Sanitary Sewer Citizens Advisory Committee,
June 10, 1952. The cost figure for the Valley Creek trunk line, branch line, and septic tanks is rounded to
$324,000 in the later reports but appears consistent with the details reported by the Sanitary Commission.
4
  Ibid. In the later reports, the cost figure for the Village Creek trunk line, branch lines, and septic tanks is
put at $224,815, substantially higher than the sum of the figures reported by the Sanitary Commission.
5
  Morris Knowles, “Water and Waste: The Sanitary Problems of a Modern Industrial District,” in
Birmingham: Smelting, Iron Ore, and Civics, Charity Organization Society of New York, January 6,
1912.
6
  Final Report of the Jefferson County Sanitary Commission; “History of Construction of the First Trunk
Line Sewers in Jefferson County.”
7
  Jefferson County Sanitary Commission Minutes, October 1901.
8
  Final Report of the Jefferson County Sanitary Commission.
9
  Final Report of the Jefferson County Sanitary Commission; “History of Construction of the First Trunk
Line Sewers in Jefferson County.”
10
   Knowles, “Water and Waste: The Sanitary Problems of a Modern Industrial District.”
11
   Jere C. King, Jr., The Formation of Greater Birmingham, The University of Alabama: 1935.
12
   “History of Construction of the First Trunk Line Sewers in Jefferson County.”
13
   Knowles, “Water and Waste: The Sanitary Problems of a Modern Industrial District.”




                                                       21
                                      CHAPTER 4

    THE SANITARY SEWER SYSTEM UNDER THE BOARD OF REVENUE,
                           1909-1931

Act 48 of 1909 vested the responsibility for control and operation of the Sanitary Sewer
System in the Jefferson County Board of Revenue, effective September 19, 1909. At this
point, the system had a foundation of two trunk lines, each having branch lines to
municipalities not located directly thereon, and septic tanks on each line to provide
sewage treatment.

Creation of the position of County Sanitary Engineer. On August 2, 1909, the Board
of Revenue created the position of County Sanitary Engineer, and on September 27, 1909
it appointed L.H. Salter to the position, with a salary of $50 per month. 1 Salter had been
County Surveyor since October of 1902. 2

Report on the condition of the sanitary system. Salter’s first task was to prepare a
report for the Board of Revenue on the condition of the sewer system. He presented his
report to the Board on November 1, 1909. The report described a number of problems on
the Village Creek line. Manholes had been tampered with, and in some cases manhole
covers were removed. In a number of places, the sewer line was exposed. Salter noted
that waterways were often too small, allowing water to wash over the sewer line. In a
positive vein, he noted that at East Lake, Woodlawn, and Avondale the main connections
were in good condition, that the line was in good condition in Pratt City, and that the
septic tanks were in good condition and working well. He recommended that work be
done to free manholes of rocks and other obstructions, to replace manhole covers as
required, and to repair the sewer line so that it was in good shape before the rainy season.
He recommended immediate attention to the exposed sewer line in two places where
there was danger of the pipe being broken.

The report also listed problems with exposed pipe along the Valley Creek line,
recommending immediate attention in certain areas. It found that the septic tanks on this
line were in good condition. Salter recommended that the Board of Revenue require the
City of Brighton to file a plan for connecting to the sewer, which it had not done. 3

Accomplishment of these activities to upgrade the two existing trunk lines occupied the
Sanitary Engineer during 1909 and 1910.

Problems stemming from divided responsibility for the system. The rapid growth of
the County’s population was already creating pressure to expand the sewer system, even
though it was only a few years old. In addition, it was evident by 1912 that the division
of responsibility between municipalities and the County hindered efforts to maintain the
system properly.




                                            22
Morris Knowles in January 1912 described two pressing problems resulting from divided
responsibility for the system. 4 The first was lack of attention by municipalities to
enforcing hookup of residences to the system:
    Greater Birmingham is confronted with the appalling fact that there are about 11,000
    privies within the city limits. About 20 per cent of these are said to exist illegally; i.e.,
    they are located within districts which are provided with sewers….

The second problem was that municipalities were allowing storm water to infiltrate the
sanitary system, interfering with the capacity of the system to handle sewage at design
capacities:

    The serious way in which the sewerage system has been allowed to lapse was indicated
    by a recent measurement of the flow from the Village Creek sewer, which showed that
    it contained a vast amount of ground or storm water. If this inflow is not soon
    prevented the sewer will not be able to take care of the population it was designed to
    serve. The county sanitary engineer believes that certain rain-water drains are
    connected up with the sanitary sewers which should be connected with the storm sewer
    (a separate system). On the other hand, the [city's] street department thinks that there
    are some sanitary sewers connected with the storm sewers. An investigation should be
    made at once, such illegal connections broken, and the houses connected up with the
    sanitary sewers.

System expansion and upgrades, 1909-1931. During the 22 years while L.H.
Salter served as Sanitary Engineer, the treatment plants for the Village Creek and
Valley Creek lines were improved and enlarged to the average daily capacities
shown in Table 4-1, and the lines were extended into additional communities. In
addition, sanitary sewer lines were added in the Five Mile Creek and Shades Creek
basins. Expenditures for system improvements during the period totaled $538,660,
as shown in Table 4-2, insofar as can be determined from the information available.

                                            TABLE 4-1

                                       Jefferson County
                              Treatment Plant Average Capacity
                                in Millions of Gallons Per Day
                                              1931

                                 Shades Valley                 0.1
                                 Valley Creek                  4.0 *
                                 Village Creek                 4.0

                                 Total                         8.1

                                 * Estimated from information available.
        - Village Creek Basin. Around 1910, the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad
Company impounded a large body of water named Bayview Lake along Village Creek, at
a point below the wastewater treatment plant in Ensley. This lake was the industrial
water supply for the TCI plant, and sewer overflows began to pollute its water. In 1911,


                                                 23
in an effort to protect the lake, the Village Creek plant was enlarged and upgraded for
about $52,275. 5 The improved plant included settling tanks and contact filter beds, and it
could handle an additional million gallons per day (MGD) of normal sewage flow. 6
Improvements to the plant were made at a cost of $392 in 1913 and another $2,308 in
1922, 7 and in 1924, the plant’s sludge beds were rebuilt at a cost of $5,093. 8

                                         TABLE 4-2

                                    Jefferson County
                              Sewer Improvement Contracts
                                        1909-1931

                             Valley Creek Basin      $ 214,820
                             Village Creek Basin        60,068
                             Five Mile Creek Basin      35,439
                             Shades Creek Basin        231,000

                             Total                   $541,327


        - Valley Creek Basin. Improvements in the Valley Creek line costing $4,279
were made in 1913. 9 In 1914 the Valley Creek treatment plant near Bessemer was
expanded and renovated at a cost of $76,497. The improvements consisted of septic
tanks and four contact filter beds. 10 The Beverly branch line was constructed in 1926 for
$30,000, extending sewer service into Powderly and lower West End. 11 The Ivanhoe
branch line, also near Powderly, was built in 1927 for a bid cost of $11,476. 12 In 1928, a
branch line was constructed to Fairfield and the Opossum Valley area at a bid cost of
$189,195, 13 and improvements costing $3,391 were made to the trunk line near Wilkes
Station. 14

       - Five Mile Creek Basin. In 1911, a new trunk line was constructed on the Five
Mile Creek watershed near the Boyles community, at a bid cost of $34,124. 15 No
treatment plant was built until 1934, which means that this line simply transported raw
sewage effluent into the creek at a point below the community. The Sanitary Engineer
was authorized in 1923 to seek bids for an extension of the line into Inglenook, 16 but he
evidently did not do so. In 1926 he advised the Board that this would be a lateral line,
which the County was not authorized to construct. 17 Several months later the Board
asked the County Attorney for an opinion on the legality of constructing lateral lines. 18
The line was extended in 1927 at a cost of $1,315. 19

        - Shades Creek Basin. In the early 1920s, the advent of automobiles and
construction of roads made possible the expansion of the Birmingham metropolitan area.
People working in Birmingham began to move “over the mountain” to Shades Valley. A
report done by Harry Hendon in the 1940s states that “those moving were principally so-
called ‘executives’ and ‘white collar workers,’ who rapidly built up the area now in the
cities of Homewood and Mountain Brook.” 20 An article in the Birmingham Post-Herald
of February 20, 1927, reported that this area




                                             24
    where hundreds of new homes are being built every year, is without a trunk sewer
    system, which is a duty and obligation of the public authorities to provide…. Adequate
    trunk sewers … are the key to the health situation. The time is at hand when the whole
    problem of Jefferson county sewerage should be gone into and a comprehensive
    program embracing all populous sections of the county agreed upon and put into
    execution. 21

In 1927, plans were made for a Shades Valley sewer with a treatment plant to be located
near Oxmoor. The project was designed to serve Mountain Brook, Homewood, and other
communities of Shades Valley with a system of seven miles of trunk lines and five to
eight miles of branch lines terminating at a large disposal facility. 22 Bids on the first
section of the trunk line, consisting of 48-inch reinforced concrete pipe, and the 30-inch
Homewood branch line, were awarded in May 1928. 23 During the next year, the trunk
line was built from Edgewood Lake to Oxmoor, where septic tanks and contact filters
were constructed to provide treatment, and the Homewood branch line was completed.
These projects together totaled about $231,000. 24 The Shades Valley treatment plant was
built to handle 100,000 gallons of wastewater per day, but a County Commissioner called
for enlarging it to 400,000 only two years later. 25

Sewer system finances during the period. From 1909 through 1920, the Board of
Revenue levied the full amount of the sewer property tax of 0.5 mills required by the
terms of Act 716. In 1921, however, no sewer tax was levied. From 1922 through 1931,
the Board of Revenue levied the tax at only 0.3 mills. The Birmingham News reported
in 1931 that costs of the sanitary system declined by 35 percent from 1921 to 1931, with
expenditures as follows:

       1921    $ 22,694                        1927    $ 46,350
       1922      27,605                        1928      49,708
       1923      18,476                        1929      20,515
       1924      45,431                        1930      19,539
       1925      22,301                        1931      14,164 26
       1926      41,128

The reduced revenues provided by the tax reductions impacted the ability to expand the
system in a timely manner. For example, extension of the Shades Valley sewer was held
up for a time in 1928 pending a study of whether the sanitary fund was capable of
financing it. 27 All of the work done on the sanitary sewer system during this period was
financed on a “pay-as-you-go” basis.

Court cases. Two significant court cases occurred during this period. 28 The first
concerned the issue of the County’s liability for damages as a result of its sewer
operations. The Alabama Supreme Court decided that the sanitary sewer system was a
governmental function, which meant that the County could not be sued for damages in
carrying it out. 29 In the second, the Court held that the City of Birmingham was liable
for negligence in maintaining its storm sewers, by allowing both storm and sanitary flows
to enter the trunk line system. The infiltration of storm water into the sanitary system
resulted in overflows during wet weather that overwhelmed the capacity of the system


                                              25
and caused damages to private property. Birmingham's defense included the assertion
that Act 714 required the city to connect its sewers to the County trunk lines. In its
decision, the Court found that the hookup requirement of Act 714 applied only to sanitary
sewers, not storm sewers. 30
Humorous incidents. This period included two incidents that seem funny today,
although they undoubtedly were serious at the time.

In 1909, the sewer system became an instrument in the enforcement of prohibition.
According to the Birmingham Age-Herald, on Sunday, September 19, 1909, the sanitary
system “gulped down” 250 gallons of prohibited liquors from eight casks of beer and 250
bottles of whiskey, as the Sheriff and his deputies smashed bottles and poured their
illegal contents down a manhole in front of the County jail. The paper reported that
Birmingham’s Mayor destroyed the first bottle:

    At 4 o’clock a great crowd had assembled in front of the jail and this crowd attracted
    many others, and after Mayor Brown had raised his little hammer and cracked the neck
    off a bottle of Red Rock rye, permitting the forbidden liquid to ooze out into the sewer,
                         31
    the onslaught began.

In November of 1926, the Sanitary Engineer’s county car was stolen, and the Board of
Revenue offered a reward of $50 for its return.

Reorganization of county government. In March, 1931 the Legislature adopted a law
changing the form of government for Jefferson County. The Act replaced the five-
member Board of Revenue with a three-member County Commission. One of the first
acts of the new Commission was to consolidate the two engineering positions – highway
and sanitary – into one, eliminating one position. L.H. Salter was relieved of his duties
effective June 1, 1931, and C.J. Rogers was elected County Engineer. 32

Staffing of the Sanitary Sewer System. During the period from 1909 until 1931, the
Sanitary Department consisted of a chief engineer, two assistant engineers, and about
three clerical personnel, according to minutes of the Board of Revenue from various
years. There were also a number of laborers, who evidently were hired on an hourly or
contract basis. The plants required very little operational support, and some of this was
done on a contract basis as well.

Figure 5, below, shows the components of the Jefferson County Sanitary Sewer System
in mid-1931. Under the stewardship of the Board of Revenue, the System had expanded
from its foundation in the Village Creek and Valley Creek basins to encompass facilities
in the Shades Creek and Five Mile Creek basins. Treatment facilities were operating in
three of these basins, all of them septic tanks. In the fourth basin, no treatment was
provided to the wastewater collected in the community and returned downstream to the
watercourse.

With the change to a commission form of county government, the second chapter in the
history of the Jefferson County Sanitary Sewer System came to an end.



                                               26
    FIGURE 5. MAJOR COMPONENTS OF THE SANITARY SEWER SYSTEM IN 1931


                                                                   K
                                                                 OR
                                4. BOYLES LINE                STF                  TU
                                                           CU                        RK
                                                                                       EY
                                                         LO                                 CR
                                                                                              .
                                                        FIV
                                                           E   MI                                 I   N
                                                                  LE                            TA
                                                                       CR                     UN
                                                                         .                  MO
                           ER                           PRUDES CR.                     ND
                         IV                      VIL                                 SA
                        R                           LAG
                    R                                  EC
                   O
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                                                                             1
               AR
              W                                                                                             ER
         CK                VA
                             LL                                          EY                              RIV
       LA                      EY                                     LL                              BA
      B                             CR                             VA          N                    HA
                                      .                          S           AI                   CA
                                                             NE           NT
                                                          JO          OU
                                                2                    M
                                                                   D Y 3
                                                               RE LE
                                                                  L
                                                               VA
                                           T.
                                          M




                                                                                       1. VILLAGE CREEK LINES &
                                                            ES
                                        CK




                                                         AD                               PLANT
                                     RO




                                                                            N
                                                       SH                 AI
                                                                      U NT          3. SHADES CREEK LINES & PLANT
                                                           .        O
                                                         CR        M                2. VALLEY CREEK LINES & PLANT
                                                      ES        S
                                                               E
                                                    AD      AD
                                                  SH     SH




1
  Minutes of the Jefferson County Board of Revenue.
2
  Minutes of the Jefferson County Board of Revenue, October 22, 1902.
3
  “Report of L.H. Salter, Engineer of Sanitary Sewer,” Minutes of the Jefferson County Board of Revenue,
November 1, 1909.
4
  Knowles, “Water and Waste: The Sanitary Problems of a Modern Industrial District.”
5
  Minutes of the Jefferson County Board of Revenue, June 26, 1911 and July 10, 1911. Later sources
indicate that the cost was $100,000, but the July minutes show the exact bids, all around $50,000; and the
June minutes indicate that the approximate cost of the improvements would be in this range.
6
  Based on the final report of the Sanitary Commission, which indicated that the plant was handling about 3
MGD in 1909; the design specifications included in Board of Revenue minutes call for 4 MGD in normal
operation, with flood capacity up to 7 MGD. Minutes of the Jefferson County Board of Revenue, July 12,
1911.
7
  Minutes of the Jefferson County Board of Revenue, June 20, 1922.
8
  Minutes of the Jefferson County Board of Revenue, June27, 1924.
9
  Minutes of the Jefferson County Board of Revenue, May 10, 1913.
10
   Minutes of the Jefferson County Board of Revenue, September 30, 1914; R.C. Barton, “History of the
Development of the Sewerage System of Jefferson County,” compiled for the Jefferson County Sanitary
Sewer Citizens Advisory Committee, June 10, 1952.
11
   Minutes of the Jefferson County Board of Revenue, June 1, 1926.


                                                                   27
12
   Minutes of the Jefferson County Board of Revenue, July 13, 1927.
13
   Minutes of the Jefferson County Board of Revenue, March 27, 1928. Barton’s 1952 report, cited above,
shows the cost at $225,000.
14
   Minutes of the Jefferson County Board of Revenue, July 3, 1928.
15
   Minutes of the Jefferson County Board of Revenue, February 20, 1912. The minutes of September 13,
1913 indicate that the contractor refunded $2,776.26 to the County because actual costs were lower.
16
   Minutes of the Jefferson County Board of Revenue, November 20, 1923.
17
   Minutes of the Jefferson County Board of Revenue, November 30, 1926.
18
   Minutes of the Jefferson County Board of Revenue, May 17, 1927.
19
   Minutes of the Jefferson County Board of Revenue, February 16, 1927.
20
   Polk, Powell and Hendon Engineers, “A Post-War Public Works Program for the City of Homewood,
Alabama,” 1944.
21
   “Adequate Trunk Sewer Facilities,” Age-Herald, February 20, 1927.
22
   “Jefferson Plans Trunk Line Sewer Costing $500,000,” The Birmingham News, May 17, 1927.
23
   Minutes of the Jefferson County Board of Revenue, May 1, 1928.
24
   Robert C. Barton, “History of the Development of the Sewerage System of Jefferson County,” 1952.
25
   “Urgent Need of Sewers in County Cited,” Birmingham Post, June 13, 1931.
26
   “Expense at Hilllman Rises 250 Per Cent,” Birmingham News, February 25, 1931.
27
   Minutes of the Jefferson County Board of Revenue, July 24, 1928.
28
   As cited in Cooper, Metropolitan County: A Survey of Government in the Birmingham Area.
29
   Jones v. Jefferson County, 206 Ala. 13, 89 So. 174 (1920).
30
   Birmingham V. Greer, 220 Ala. 678, 126 So. 859 (1930).
31
   “250 Gallons of Liquor Poured into the Sewers,” The Age-Herald, September 19, 1909.
32
   Minutes of the Jefferson County Commission, April 30, 1931.




                                                  28
                                       CHAPTER 5

        THE SANITARY SEWER SYSTEM DURING THE DEPRESSION
                   AND WORLD WAR II, 1931-1946

The newly appointed County Commission focused quickly on the inadequacies of the
Sanitary Sewer System. In August 1931 it adopted a resolution stating that “there is an
urgent and imperative necessity for the immediate construction of an addition to the
Jefferson County Sanitary Sewer System in the interest of public health,” and
appropriated the entire $450,000 balance in the sanitary sewer fund for this purpose.
The Commission announced that a program of construction costing $1.5 million was
needed to bring the System up to date and allow it to serve the county’s population for
the next decade.

Discussion before the Commission indicated that all three disposal plants (Valley Creek,
Village Creek, and Shades Valley) were badly overloaded and obsolete. The Shades
Valley facility could only handle 100,000 gallons a day, 25 percent of the capacity
necessary for the area’s population. While a lateral line connecting Homewood to the
treatment plant had been completed, the Shades Valley area still lacked a major trunk
line. The City of Irondale was not connected to the Sanitary System. Plans to build a
sewer to do so were in the works, but no definite steps had yet been taken. In June the
Commission refinanced the $400,000 in outstanding sewer bonds from the original bond
issue, which allowed the County to avoid paying its existing debt and to apply all income
to the current construction program; but the total available was substantially less than
what was needed. 1

The County used the resources it had to expand sewer lines in the Shades Creek basin and
to upgrade treatment facilities. The County’s first primary treatment plants were
constructed in 1933 and 1934 -- the Village Creek plant and the Boyles (Five Mile Creek)
plant. Primary sewage treatment involves the physical removal of wastewater pollutants,
usually by screens or a settling-out process known as sedimentation. While primitive by
today’s standards, these plants represented an improvement at the time. The Village
Creek facility had been a septic tank, and there was no treatment facility at all in the Five
Mile Creek basin. The Valley Creek septic tank was replaced in 1933 by a screening
plant, which removed large solids but had no settling-out capability. Federal funds paid
for part of the Boyles plant, and another federal grant in 1946 allowed further
improvements at the Village Creek plant.

Facilities in the fast-growing Shades Valley area were substantially improved. Sewer
lines were extended to the Mountain Brook and Hollywood areas between 1932 and
1934. In 1934, the County built in Shades Valley its first plant providing secondary
treatment of sewage. Early in World War II, further sewer extensions were made in
Shades Valley.




                                             29
However, municipalities in the area were not putting the same emphasis on improving
their sewer collection systems. A 1944 report for the City of Homewood by Polk,
Powell, and Hendon Engineers stated that

    the City has, for a number of years, had serious trouble with flooding and stoppages in
    its sanitary sewers. It is believed that this trouble is caused by improper maintenance
    and inspection rather than by lack of capacity. The County main sewer has ample
    capacity to serve several times the present population of Homewood if the local sewers
                                                   2
    were properly constructed and maintained.

Works Progress Administration projects, 1935-1942. In 1935, with the Great
Depression in full swing, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) was established by
the federal government to improve the economy and provide employment for millions of
the country's unemployed. In Jefferson County, the WPA constructed and rehabilitated
miles of sanitary sewers in addition to the roads and buildings for which it is best known.
A partial list of projects is shown below; while it is not always possible to tell about
ownership of the sewers on which the WPA worked, much work clearly was done on
municipal as well as county sewers. In particular, it appears that the WPA projects
finally attacked the lack of connections in parts of the City of Birmingham that had been
described as a pressing problem over two decades earlier.

1935
• Bessemer, Removal and replacement of concrete sewers with vitrified clay pipe.
• Bessemer, Removal and replacement of concrete sewers with new concrete pipe.
• Bessemer, Sewer line construction for Carver School.
• Birmingham, Sewer line construction in the Mellville Court area.
• Birmingham, Sewer line construction in the Enon Ridge District.
• Birmingham, Sewer construction and rehabilitation, Cast iron pipe installation for the
   First Court Alley Sewer.
• Birmingham, Sewer line construction in unnamed areas of the city.
• Homewood, Sewer construction in the Hollywood section.

1936
• Bessemer, Connected Carver School onto the sewer system.
• Birmingham, Sewer line construction in the Melville Court area.
• Birmingham, Sewer line construction in the Enon Ridge District

1937
• Bessemer, Sewer line construction in East and West Bessemer.
• Birmingham, Sewer line construction in the Enon Ridge District.
• Homewood, Sewer line construction in the Hollywood section.
• Leeds, Improvements at the Leeds wastewater treatment plant.
• Mountain Brook, Sewer line construction in Mountain Brook Estates.
• Tarrant City, Sewer line construction in NW Tarrant City.




                                              30
1938
• Birmingham, Sewer line construction throughout the city. 3
• Birmingham, Preparation of a map of the city’s sewers before 1910 and compilation
   of a public record of Jefferson County’s existing sewer system.
• Birmingham, Index plumbing records from 1925 through 1935 and install an
   adequate record keeping system.
• Homewood, Sewer line construction throughout the city.
• Jefferson County, Sewer line construction in the Hyde Park area of Powderly.

1939
• Bessemer, Sewer line construction throughout the city. 4
• Birmingham, Sewer line construction throughout the city.
• Birmingham, Sewer line construction in the Ensley and Lehigh areas.
• Jefferson County, Sewer line construction in the Hyde Park area of Powderly.
• Tarrant City, Sewer line construction on Mountain Drive, Shades Street, & McCaskill
   Street.

1941
• Birmingham, Sewer line construction throughout the city.

1942
• Mountain Brook, Sewer line construction in Mountain Brook Estates.
• Tarrant City, Sewer line construction throughout the city.

The existing records of WPA projects are somewhat incomplete and in bad condition;
thus, this is not a complete listing of WPA sewer projects during its seven-year tenure in
Jefferson County. However, it does indicate that the WPA had widespread impact on
sanitary conditions in Jefferson County, particularly on improvements to municipal sewer
collection systems.

The WPA records that do remain provide details of the materials used, cost, and
conditions requiring sanitary sewer construction during the 1930s and 1940s. For
example, WPA Work Project Number 65-61-308 focused on an area of Birmingham,
providing “approximately 350 parcels of property with sanitary sewers, replacing dry
toilets and septic tanks” at a cost of $23,919, with federal WPA funds providing 64
percent and the City of Birmingham contributing the remaining 36 percent.

The details also provide a sense of the materials used on sewer construction during the
time period. The use of terra cotta pipes and of manual tools, such as picks and shovels,
listed in the itemization for the above project, shows that the sewer construction
techniques used were still quite primitive by today’s standards. By the time the WPA
closed its doors in the County in June of 1942, 75 miles of sewer had been installed, over
30 miles of existing collectors had been repaired, and over 3,000 sewage service
connections had been made.




                                            31
Planning for future improvements. During the Depression and World War II, capital
improvements had been limited to the extension of the Shades Valley line and upgrading
of treatment methods at three plants. By the end of the War, it had become obvious that
the two original trunk lines, built around 1905, had not only become inadequate in
capacity to carry the volumes of sewage required by the growing population of the
County, but also had deteriorated markedly due to lack of investment in their upkeep. In
addition, the growth of the County required further extension of the System into areas not
currently served. 5

In September 1946, the Legislative Advisory Commission for the Jefferson County
Survey reported its findings to the County Commission in a document known as
"Memorandum No.10." This group, appointed by the Legislature and composed of
influential citizens and educators, had been created to study all phases of city and county
government. Its report was instrumental in bringing to the attention of the public the
problems and limitations of the County's sanitary facilities and their potential to arrest
further growth in the County.

Between 1901 and 1946 a total of approximately $2,500,000 had been spent on the
County’s sewer system. However, most expenditures had gone either toward the original
construction or for extending the system, with relatively little used for repairs and
maintenance. By 1946, not only was the system in a state of disrepair, but despite
additions designed to help it meet the demands of County population growth, it remained
grossly inadequate. Birmingham’s growth rate had far exceeded expectations, and
population settlement patterns were making it difficult for the County to keep the System
on the same growth rate. Densely populated areas were forming outside of the city
proper, and any program of modernizing the system would have to be expansive in scope.

In addition to analyzing the physical condition of the System’s infrastructure, the report
concluded that the sharing of responsibility between the County and municipalities was
partly to blame for the poor condition of the Sanitary Sewer System. An article in the
July 15, 1947 Birmingham News briefly summarizes the findings of Memorandum No.
10 on this point:

    Many of the existing municipal sewer systems are older than the county system and
    several were built without proper precautions. The real difference between
    storm and sanitary sewers was not appreciated. Through no fault of present officials,
    the municipal sewers are causing trouble for the county system. Neither the staffs of
    the county nor the municipalities are large enough to keep the system free from trouble.
    Sewers in thickly populated unincorporated areas such as Roebuck and Powderly have
    been built at private expense and tied in with the county system. Trouble on a private
                                              6
    line causes trouble on the county system.

Responding to the findings of Memorandum No. 10, in October 1946 the County
Commission applied to the Federal Works Agency for a planning grant to finance an
overall engineering study of the County Sanitary Sewer System. The grant was
approved, and the agreement was signed in December 1946, making $91,500 in federal
funds available to the County for planning sewer improvements. 7


                                              32
System expansions and upgrades, 1931-1946. Table 5-1, below, summarizes the
County’s sewer improvement program during the Great Depression and World War II.
Construction work on trunk lines was limited largely to the Shades Creek basin, which
received the largest share of funds during the period. Treatment methods were upgraded
in all four basins covered by the System, but to different levels. A screening plant was
added in the Valley Creek basin, and primary treatment plants were added in the Village
Creek and Five Mile Creek basins. One secondary treatment plant was built, in the
Shades Creek basin. The average daily treatment capacity of plants existing in 1946 is
shown in Table 5-2.

                                        TABLE 5-1

                                    Jefferson County
                              Sewer Improvement Contracts
                                        1931-1946

                            Valley Creek Basin       $ 31,385
                            Village Creek Basin       193,295
                            Five Mile Creek Basin     125,000
                            Shades Creek Basin        406,861

                            Total                    $ 756,541

                                         TABLE 5-2

                                     Jefferson County
                            Treatment Plant Average Capacity
                              in Millions of Gallons Per Day
                                            1946

                               Five Mile Creek          3.0
                               Shades Valley            2.0
                               Valley Creek            20.0
                               Village Creek           15.0

                               Total                   40.0

        - Village Creek Basin. A laboratory for testing water quality was built at the
Village Creek Treatment Plant in Ensley in 1931, at a cost of $5,695. 8 In March 1933 a
new Village Creek Treatment Plant was completed at a cost of $175,000. Designed by
Harry Hendon and touted by Commissioner W.D. Bishop as “the first of its type in the
South,” the new plant was the first in Jefferson County to provide primary treatment. In
1945, a grant was received from the Federal Works Agency for financial assistance on
improvements to the Village Creek plant. In 1946, additions and renovations were made
at an estimated cost of $136,000. 9

        - Valley Creek Basin. In 1933, a screening plant was built at the Bessemer site at
a bid cost of $31,385.25. 10



                                            33
        - Five Mile Creek Basin. In 1934, the Boyles treatment plant was completed at a
cost of $125,000, providing primary treatment. The plant was financed in part by federal
Civil Works Administration funds. 11

        - Shades Creek Basin. In 1932, the Shades Valley sewer was extended 3.2 miles
from Edgewood Lake to Mountain Brook, using 42-inch pipe, at a bid cost of
$121,951.02. 12 The Hollywood (or Watkins) branch line, 1.3 miles in length, was
constructed in 1933 for a bid cost of $13, 909.64. 13 In 1934, the Shades Valley disposal
plant was completed for a total cost of $145,000, financed in part by federal CWA
funds. 14 Designed by Harry Hendon, it was a chemical precipitation plant designed to
provide secondary treatment to a million gallons of sewage per day and was considered a
state-of-the-art facility. In 1935, Hendon invited international experts to inspect the
plant, and they agreed that the plant “ranks with the finest.” 15 In 1941, the Shades Valley
sewer was extended from Mountain Brook to Overbrook Road at a cost of $126,000. 16
The County assumed responsibility for two sewers connected to the Hollywood branch
sewer in Shades Valley in 1942. 17

Staffing changes and organizational growth during the period. In July 1932, the
County Commission appointed Harry H. Hendon as Sanitary Engineer, effective August
1, 1932, with a salary of $250 per month. Hendon had been an employee of the County
since 1926. 18 He was granted a leave of absence on January 28, 1936 to become resident
engineer on the Birmingham Industrial Water Works Project, a federal Works Progress
Administration project. M.E. Boriss, who had been hired as an Assistant Engineer in
1932, was promoted to Acting Sanitary Engineer at that time.

In 1938, the Sanitary Department was merged with the Highway Department, creating the
County Engineering Department. Boriss then became responsible to County Engineer
Harry Hendon, who had returned to the County on January 1, 1938. Boriss remained
Sanitary Engineer until October 13, 1942, when he was called up for military duty.
Robert C. Barton, a chemist who had worked for the Department since the mid-1930s,
was then named Sanitary Engineer, a position he would hold for three decades until his
retirement in 1972. Harry Hendon left the County for good in 1942, entering private
practice where he would be involved in planning and construction of the sanitary sewer
system for many years. On the County Commission, Earl Bruner became Commissioner
of Public Works in 1939 and remained in this position until his retirement in 1952.

By 1946, there were 37 employees in the Sanitary Division. Twenty employees worked
at the wastewater treatment plants, and there were two engineers, a chemist, and two
maintenance crews with seven men each. 19 Table 5-3 shows the organizational structure.

Sewer system finances during the period. The sewer tax rate remained at 0.3 mills
from 1932 to 1934, seesawed between 0.3 and 0.2 mills from 1935 to 1939, and was set
at 0.5 mills from 1940 forward. To give itself immediate financial relief, the Board of
Revenue during the 1930s refinanced the bonds issued in the early 1900s. A $50,000
bond issue in 1941 was apparently the only sewer financing during this period other than
annual tax receipts. 20 Table 5-4 shows the revenues and expenditures of the sanitary



                                            34
system from 1943 to 1945.

                                                                TABLE 5-3

                                             Sanitary System Employment, 1946

                                           Administration                                          2
                                           Maintenance crews (2)                                  14
                                           Chemist                                                 1
                                           Wastewater Treatment Plants:
                                            Village Creek                                          9
                                            Valley Creek                                          *
                                            Shades Valley                                          6
                                            Five Mile Creek                                        5
                                                                                                  37
                                           *Operation discontinued in 1939.

                                                                Table 5-4

                               Jefferson County Sewer System Finances, 1931-1945

                               1931                    1935                     1943                    1944                     1945
Revenues

Property Tax                   $117,723                 $82,785             $   154,034             $    157,083            $     172,513
Other                                99                       30                    600                    1,000                      962

Total                      $    117,822            $     82,815             $   154,634             $    158,083             $    173,475

Expenditures

Administration                                                              $       5,915           $       3,057           $           4,260
Plant Operations                                                                   30,232                  32,178                      38,726
Maintenance                                                                         4,826                  16,050                       8,122
Debt Service                                                                       94,328                  88,295                      33,496
Other                                                                               1,089                       0                      18,469

Total                           $54,649                 $87,906             $   136,390             $    139,580             $    103,073

Sources:
Annual Receipts from the Various Institutions and Departments of Jefferson County, for the Tweleve Months Ending, September 30, 1935
Annual Receipts from the Various Institutions and Departments of Jefferson County, for the Tweleve Months Ending, September 30, 1931
Budget of the Jefferson County Commission, October 1, 1942 to September 30, 1943
Budget of the Jefferson County Commission, October 1, 1943 to September 30, 1944
Metropolitan County, A Survey of Government in the Birmingham Area



Figure 6 shows the major components of the Jefferson County Sanitary Sewer System as
they existed in 1946.

The era of the Great Depression and World War II presented great financial obstacles to
sound development of the Jefferson County Sanitary Sewer System. This era came to a



                                                                     35
close in 1946 as the momentum to plan and develop more adequate sewer facilities took
shape within the County.

    FIGURE 6. MAJOR COMPONENTS OF THE SANITARY SEWER SYSTEM IN 1946


                                                                      K
                                                                    OR
                           4. BOYLES LINE & PLANT               S TF                     TU
                                                              CU                           RK
                                                                                             EY
                                                            LO                                    CR
                                                                                                    .
                                                          FIV
                                                             E                                           IN
                                                                 MI                                    TA
                                                                    LE
                                                                         CR                          UN
                                                                           .                       MO
                             ER                           PRUDES CR.                          ND
                           IV                                                               SA
                          R                        VIL                               4
                      R                               LAG
                     O
                   RI
                                                         EC
                                                           R.                  1
                AR
               W                                                                                                   R
          CK                 VA                                             Y                                   IVE
        LA                     LL
                                 EY                                    AL
                                                                         LE
                                                                                                             BAR
       B                              CR                             V        AI
                                                                                 N
                                                                                                           HA
                                                                   S
                                        .                       NE         NT                            CA
                                                  2          JO         OU
                                                                      M
                                                                    D     3
                                                                 RE EY
                                                                    LL
                                             T.




                                                                  VA
                                            M
                                          CK




                                                                                             1. VILLAGE CREEK LINES &
                                                               ES
                                       RO




                                                            AD               IN                 PLANT
                                                         SH               TA              3. SHADES CREEK LINE & PLANT
                                                             .         UN
                                                           CR         O
                                                                    M                    2. VALLEY CREEK LINES & PLANT
                                                        ES       ES
                                                      AD      AD
                                                    SH     SH




1
  “Urgent Need of Sewers in County Cited,” The Birmingham Post-Herald, June 13, 1931.
2
  Polk , Powell, and Hendon Engineers, A Post-War Public Works Program for the City of Homewood,
Alabama, 1944.
3
  “City Public Works Bill is $2,729,591,” The Birmingham News, January 2, 1939. The article notes that
the WPA built sewers in six sanitary districts in the City at a cost of $72,670, which included 42,218 feet of
sewers and 90 manholes.
4
  “City Improvements Finished at Cost of Nearly $2,000,000,” The Birmingham News, December 31,
1939. The article notes that WPA sewer improvements in the City totaled $115,956.76
5
  Jefferson County Commission, “The Jefferson County Sanitary Sewer Program,” undated manuscript.
6
  “County Sanitation System Needs Bringing Up to Date,” The Birmingham News, July 15, 1947.
7
  Ibid. Details on the grant are also found in Barton, “History of the Development of the Sewerage System
of Jefferson County.”
8
  Minutes of the Jefferson County Commission, November 30, 1931.
9
  Minutes of the Jefferson County Commission, May 23, 1944, January 22, 1946, and November 5, 1946.
10
   Minutes of the Jefferson County Commission, February 2, 1933 contain the bid price; Barton, “History
of the Development of the Sewerage System of Jefferson County,” dates the completion of the plant as
1934.
11
   Barton, “History of the Development of the Sewerage System of Jefferson County,” and Cooper,
Metropolitan County: A Survey of Government in the Birmingham Area, cite the cost as $48,892; but
J.W. Goodwin Engineering Company, Inc., Engineering Report and Bond Prospectus in Connection with



                                                                     36
the Financing of $10,000,000 of Collecting Sewers and Sewage Treatment Works for Jefferson County,
Alabama, 1951, reports the total cost as $125,000, with the county participation at $48,892.
12
   Minutes of the Jefferson County Commission, November 2, 1932; Barton, “History of the Development
of the Sewerage System of Jefferson County.”
13
   Minutes of the Jefferson County Commission, August 1, 1933; Barton, “History of the Development of
the Sewerage System of Jefferson County”; “County’s New Sewage Plant Ready to Open,” The
Birmingham Post-Herald, March 25, 1933.
14
   J.W. Goodwin Engineering Company, Engineering Report and Bond Prospectus, mentions the federal
participation; Cooper, Metropolitan County: A Survey of Government in the Birmingham Area, lists the
county’s expenditure as $90,247.33.
15
   “Engineers from Three Nations Praise County’s Sewage Plant,” The Birmingham Post-Herald, August
10, 1935.
16
   Barton, “History of the Development of the Sewerage System of Jefferson County.”
17
   Ibid.
18
   Minutes of the Jefferson County Commission, June 19, 1928, mention a salary increase for Hendon.
19
   Alvord, Burdick, & Howson, and Polglaze & Basenberg, Report on Collection Sewers and Sewage
Treatment for the Birmingham Metropolitan Area, Jefferson County Alabama, 1948.
20
   Cooper, Metropolitan County: A Survey of Government in the Birmingham Area, at Table 56.




                                                 37
                                      CHAPTER 6

           THE SANITARY SEWER SYSTEM IN THE POSTWAR ERA
               PRIOR TO THE CLEAN WATER ACT, 1947-1972

With federal planning funds in hand, the Jefferson County Commission moved quickly in
1947 to obtain professional advice, receive citizen input, and schedule a public vote on
the financing necessary for sewer improvements. Even though all of these pieces came
together in a coordinated way, without any hindrance, it was 1951 before construction
contracts were let, and 1953 before most of the construction was at or near completion.
The elements of the process, described below, reveal the complexity of achieving public
improvements and show why leadership is essential in public service.

Obtaining professional advice. The County Commission engaged a prominent Chicago
engineering firm, Alvord, Burdick & Howson, in February 1947. This firm enlisted the
assistance of a Birmingham firm, Polglaze and Basenberg. The first task given these
firms was to study sanitary sewage needs in the entire Birmingham metropolitan area,
assuming the capacity to make an investment of $10,000,000 to $15,000,000. The
second task was to produce detailed plans and specifications for adequate sewage
collection and treatment in the Village Creek basin, assuming an investment of
$2,500,000 to $3,000,000. While these professional studies were underway, the
Commission sought citizen involvement.

Receiving citizen input. A Citizens Advisory Committee was formed in March 1947 to
examine the financial affairs and the urgent needs of the County and to make
recommendations for improvement. One of the six subcommittees was assigned to
analyze the Sewer System.

Subcommittee meetings illuminated the fact that dual ownership of the System made it
difficult to maintain facilities or assign responsibility for problems. At a March 31, 1947
subcommittee meeting, Birmingham City Commissioner J.W. Morgan called the
condition of the system a “hazard to health” and stated, “If sewer conditions are not better
in the future than in the past, I’d rather the City take the sewers over and be responsible
for them than to be blamed for them.” He and Birmingham City Engineer J.D. Webb
maintained that the County was at fault for the City’s sewage problems, claiming that it
was the County-maintained trunk lines that were “breaking down.” Webb remarked, “All
our difficulties are attributable to that trouble. We are just about 14 years on borrowed
time with trunk line sewer maintenance.” 1

County Commission President Clarence Pinson pointed out that the County was faced
with the problem of raising money for sewage upkeep without adequate sources of
revenue available under the law. The County’s only source of revenue for the System
was a one-half mill ad valorem tax that returned around $170,000 annually, barely
enough to keep the system running, much less initiate a major program of
improvements. 2 In fact, later in the year Pinson asked that salary increases for County



                                            38
employees be put on hold because “…every penny spent on salaries decreases our ability
to keep up our outmoded and inadequate sewerage facilities.” 3

The age of the sewers was also an issue. Brick sewers with deteriorating mortar that
were originally constructed around 1905 still constituted a substantial portion of sewer
infrastructure. Subcommittee member Alex Montgomery said in an article in the
Birmingham News, “These sewers were obsolete in 1934. We’ve run 14 years on
borrowed time,” and told the County Commission that, “The sewer system is a public
disgrace…It’s time you did something.” Marvin Barton, a resident of a rural area in
eastern Jefferson County, told the County Commission, “I won’t even let my cattle drink
water on my fields because the overflow from trunk lines is so heavy that it pollutes
natural streams.” 4 News articles of the time highlight the severity of wastewater
problems in the County. Heavy rains caused the sewers to overflow into the homes of
County residents. 5 Sewage also found its way into City streets, ditches, and at times
even covered the fairway at the Birmingham Country Club. 6

The Citizens Advisory Committee presented its report to the County Commission on May
8, 1947. It recommended that the existing sanitary sewers be rebuilt, enlarged, and
modernized and that the County Commission should retain the jurisdiction and
responsibility for operation and maintenance of the system. With this citizen input, the
County Commission turned to the Legislature for help on sewer finances.

Getting legislative approval for financing. At the request of the County Commission,
the State Legislature approved Act 407 in September 1947, which created a financial plan
for improvements to the Sanitary Sewer System. The Act proposed an amendment to the
Constitution of Alabama authorizing Jefferson County to issue, with voter approval,
sewerage bonds to the extent of three percent of the valuation of taxable property, and to
levy sewerage charges or rentals to amortize such bonds and to operate and maintain
sewer facilities.

The proposed amendment called for a system of sewer charges that would be sufficient to
operate and maintain the Sanitary Sewer System in the future, and would be under the
full control of the Jefferson County Commission, without any need for approval by the
State Legislature or any possibility of legislative limitation:

    [Sewer charges] shall be levied and collected in an amount sufficient to pay the
    principal of and interest on such bonds, replacements, extensions and improvements to,
    and the cost of operation and maintenance of, the sewers and sewerage treatment and
    disposal plants….

    The governing body of Jefferson County shall have full power and authority to manage,
    operate, control and administer the sewers and plants herein provided for and, to that
    end, may make any reasonable and nondiscriminatory rules and regulations fixing rates
    and charges….

    This amendment shall be self-executing.




                                              39
The proposed amendment also looked forward to a more consolidated sanitary sewer
system for Jefferson County, authorizing the County to take over municipal sewer
systems with approval of the affected city, and to provide sewers for any municipality
that did not want to do so. It stated that “such sewers and plants shall thereupon become
a part of a combined and consolidated sewer system for Jefferson County.”

This proposal would be placed before the voters in the November 1948 general election.

Referral of the consultant’s recommendations to the Citizens Advisory Committee.
In April 1948 the County Commission received the consultant’s Report on Collecting
Sewers and Sewage Treatment for the Birmingham Metropolitan Area, compiled by
Alvord, Burdick & Howson and its Birmingham partner, Polglaze and Basenberg.

The report showed that the capacity of the sewer system was grossly inadequate for the
demand placed on it. The County had grown at a phenomenal rate, and the sanitary
system had not been able to keep up. The pipeline infrastructure of the system was badly
eroded. Several sewer lines were discharging directly into Village Creek at all times,
including a sewer that carried packing plant wastes. Ground water infiltration was
causing the sewers to overflow their capacities and drain into the storm sewers or directly
into Village Creek or Valley Creek.

The conditions of the County's treatment plants were also found to be unsatisfactory. The
Village Creek plant treated only half of the wastes that originated in its drainage area.
The Five Mile Creek and Shades Valley plants had reached their capacity. The Valley
Creek Sewer was completely lacking in treatment facilities, with all wastes going directly
into Valley Creek. Operations at the Bessemer plant had been discontinued in 1939
because it was decided that Valley Creek was already so contaminated by industrial
sewage and wastes that little could be gained by the screening treatment provided by the
plant.

The report urged immediate sewer repairs and additions to ensure the further growth of
the Birmingham area. It recommended repairing and upgrading the capacity of the sewer
collectors in the Village Creek, Valley Creek, Shades Valley, and Five Mile Creek
basins; building a 66-inch tunnel to divert drainage from the upper part of the
overburdened Valley Creek sewer to the Village Creek sewer; and upgrading the
capabilities of all four sewage treatment plants. The total cost of the recommended
projects was estimated at $22,500,000, with annual costs of the improvements and system
operations estimated at $1,183,000. The report recommended sewer fees, which were
permitted by Act 407 of 1947, as the best and most equitable way to finance the needed
program of improvements. 7

In June 1948, the County Commission sent County Engineer C.J. Rogers, Sanitary
Engineer R.C. Barton, and Commissioner Earl Bruner to Chicago to discuss the report
thoroughly with the consultants. Thereafter, the report was referred to the Citizens
Advisory Committee for its study and recommendations. 8




                                            40
Passage of the sewer amendment. There was broad support for the amendment. Labor
organizations; various women’s professional and civic clubs; real estate, mortgage loan,
and insurance groups; and many other organizations actively campaigned and provided
support to assure the its passage. Newspapers played a major role in making the public
aware of the health hazard the sanitary sewer system posed and of following the progress
of the County’s program as it made its way toward implementation. The State and
County health departments also strongly advocated the plan as an urgent necessity to
improve the overall health and sanitation of the County. County Health Officer Dr.
George A. Denison was an ardent and outspoken proponent. Denison reminded the
public that Birmingham was known as the “typhoid capital” of the world in the early 20th
Century and that overhauling the sanitary sewer system was the key to keeping the City
from again being so closely associated with “filth-borne diseases.” To urge the passage
of the amendment he informed voters that, “The growth and prosperity of Jefferson
County will be impossible unless the present sewerage health danger is removed.” 9

The Jefferson County Sewer Amendment, as it was called, was approved by a substantial
majority at the November 2, 1948, general election. With the incorporation of this
language as Amendment 73 to the Constitution of Alabama, Jefferson County gained
important financial powers that had been unavailable to the administration of the Sanitary
Sewer System in the past.

The Amendment authorized the County Commission to seek voter approval for a bond
issue. The Commission initially set the date of the special election for January 25, 1949,
but later moved the date back to allow time for County residents to become well-
informed about what they would be voting for in the special election. The election on the
bond issue was ultimately set for July 12, 1949.

Recommendations of the Citizens Advisory Committee. The Commission appointed a
second sewage subcommittee of the Citizens Advisory Committee on January 3, 1949.
The appointment letter notified members that “your principal duties will be that of
advising your County government as to the proper procedure we should follow in order
that the sewer bond amendment will be passed by the voters of Jefferson County.”

Raising the recommended $22,500,000 at one time was considered impossible, so County
Commissioners focused on the most urgently needed items that were estimated to cost
around $10,000,000. They proposed to issue sewer revenue bonds that would be repaid
through a sewer service charge, or rental. It was estimated that a charge of 50 percent on
the water bills of those hooked to the sanitary system would raise $1,000,000 in annual
revenues, 10 which would be sufficient to retire the bonds; afterward, the charge would
drop to 25 percent of the water bill. 11 Charging the actual customers for sewer usage
would place the burden for upkeep on those who used the system, a practice already
common in other urban areas.

The final report of the Citizens Advisory Committee was presented to the County
Commission on May 8, 1949, two months before the public vote on the sewer bond issue.
The Committee found that “there exists at this time a serious health menace to the people
of Jefferson County because of the great deterioration, inadequacy and obsolescence of


                                           41
present trunk sewers and sewage disposal plants.” It recommended a $10,000,000 bond
issue to be put before voters in July, with funds to be devoted to seven specific projects,
amortized by the existing five-mill sewer property tax and a new sewer rental tax based
on a percentage of the customer’s water bill. It also recommended that the County
Commission appoint a permanent citizens committee to work with the administration of
the Sewer System. 12

The bond issue election. An election was held on July 12, 1949, under the terms of the
Sewer Amendment, at which Jefferson County voters approved the $10,000,000 bond
issue and the levy of sewer service charges. The vote was 7,306 for and 4,877 against.

Legislative approval for sewer charges. In November 1949, the Legislature approved
Act 619 to implement the County’s new authority by authorizing the levy of sewer rentals
or service charges, and creating a Board of Arbitration to review rates and handle
appeals. The act required that sewer service charges be uniform for the same type, class,
and amount of service, and that they be based on consumption of water, with allowance
for commercial use and for water not entering the sewerage system. It limited the rate to
50 percent of the water bill when the charge was based on water use alone.

This legislative infringement on the power of the County Commission to set sewer
charge rates was not challenged at the time. However, the Alabama Supreme Court
would later rule that it was unconstitutional, in that Amendment 73 gave sole power
to the Jefferson County Commission to set rates.

Engineering work and construction contracts. In October and November 1949, the
County Commission received proposals and awarded contracts for engineering work on
the seven projects to be financed by the bond issue:

       1 – A new Village Creek collector sewer
       2 – A diversion tunnel from Valley Creek to Village Creek
       3 – A new Village Creek wastewater treatment plant
       4 – A new Valley Creek wastewater treatment plant
       5 – A Homewood-Griffin Creek trunk sewer line
       6 – A Mountain Brook relief sewer line
       7 – A Bessemer outfall sewer 13

The Village Creek treatment plant project was delayed due to the refusal of the City of
Birmingham to rezone the plant site, and the ensuing court battle went to the Alabama
Supreme Court, which sided with Birmingham. 14

The J.W. Goodwin Engineering Company was hired to manage and coordinate the
engineering work and to prepare a bond prospectus. Its comprehensive report showed
that when the full cost of the delayed Village Creek treatment plant project was added to
the total, there would be a requirement for $12.8 million to finance the seven projects. Its
plan was to issue the $10 million in bonds plus another $2.5 million in sewer warrants;
the warrants would be repaid first, with bond payment delayed until thereafter. The



                                             42
remainder, $324,000, would come from surplus sanitary funds. This plan was followed
by the County. The report also documented the fact that even after these projects were
completed, there would be a requirement for another $1.7 million to be spent on sewer
lines and another $9 million to be spent on treatment plants, in order for Jefferson County
to bring its Sanitary Sewer System to an adequate condition. 15

Construction contract bids for six of the seven projects were taken in April 1951, and
work orders were issued to the successful bidders in June 1951. The total contracted
price for the projects was $8,066,259.25, 16 and all of the work was completed by mid-
1954. The Village Creek treatment plant work was not contracted until 1953, following
completion of the court case regarding zoning of the plant site, and the plant became fully
operational in 1958.

County Health Officer Dr. George A. Denison kept up a discourse with the public
throughout the implementation of the County’s plan, urging its completion. In a 1953
Birmingham News article, he reported that the County did not have an open stream fit to
swim in, stating:

    Keep away from any open stream in Jefferson County. The streams are all polluted one
    way or the other – and in varying degrees. All watersheds in this county carry pollution
    from sewage and as a sanitary measure steps were taken three years ago to help general
    health conditions by halting use of open streams for swimming.

In the summer of 1953 five Jefferson County camps did not use area watercourses in their
programs because of the findings of the Board of Health. 17

On May 19, 1953, the Citizens Advisory Committee presented a report to the County
Commission on progress in implementing its construction program. It recommended that
the County place priority on extending collector sewers in preference to spending funds
for secondary treatment, expressing a concern with expanding the sanitary system and
allowing more County residents to be connected before funds were spent to add more
advanced sewage treatment. At the time, it was thought that primary treatment, which
involved removing the floating and settleable solids in wastewater, was sufficient to treat
the sewage to an acceptable level. Secondary treatment was viewed by the Committee as
a desirable but non-essential step that further purified the water, making it suitable for
industrial reclamation. The Committee’s reasoning was closely tied to the limited
economic resources of the program. Although sale of reclaimed water might raise
$100,000 a year, the upgrades needed to purify the water to the point usable for the
process would cost an estimated $6,000,000 and expanding the system was a task seen as
much more urgent.

Implementing the sewer service charge. Debt service on the sewer bonds could not be
paid until the County developed a method of implementing sewer charges. The
Birmingham Water Works and Bessemer Water Service were the logical choices, since
they provided water service to those who used the Sewer System and already had billing
systems. 18 In January 1950, the President of the County Commission met with the
Manager of the Birmingham Water Works Company to propose an agreement whereby


                                              43
the sewer service charge would be collected on water bills, but the company refused. The
City of Birmingham was trying to purchase the Water Works at the time. After months
of negotiations, it became clear that the City of Birmingham was not interested in making
the collections either. 19 The City took control of the Water Works in July 1951 but
would not agree to collect the County’s charges.

Implementing the authorized sewer service charge therefore required creating a complete
revenue collection system, and no one in the County Engineering Department at the time
had any experience in billing or collection. The County formally requested customer
information, which water suppliers were required by Act 619 to provide. In May, the
County hired four clerks to begin the laborious process of determining which water
customers were connected to the sewer system, and the proper billing addresses. This
was done by plotting sewer lines and customer addresses on large maps. In June, the
County Commission authorized spending $28,528 for addressograph equipment to make
the billing possible. Arrangements were made with twelve companies to serve as
collection locations, in addition to the two courthouses, in exchange for a fee of 2.5
percent of collections. The County created a Billing Department with eighteen
employees and assigned seven staff members of the Engineering Department to inspect
and verify sewer connections. 20 Collection of the sewer service charge began on July 1,
1951. The rates were based on water usage, and were set at amounts equal to 50 percent
of then-current water rates, with a minimum of $1.30 per quarter.

The charge was controversial, and at the beginning there was widespread
misunderstanding about it. Many people believed that the City of Birmingham, instead
of the County, ran the sewer system and mistakenly thought that the County was trying to
connect new, unnecessary sewers to their homes. In landlord-tenant situations it was not
widely understood whether the tenant or the property owner was responsible for the fee. 21
By December of 1951, around 20% of Birmingham sewer customers had yet to pay a
sewer bill, and 40% of Bessemer customers had not paid.22

There also were billing errors at the beginning. The County had to develop procedures
both for removing those who received bills even though they were not connected to the
sewer system, and for adding those who were not billed even though they were
connected. Applications were filed by those who wanted to be removed from the billing,
and the County Engineering Department had to verify that there was no sewer service at
the address. During the first two years, about 10,000 applications were reviewed. A
testing method was developed using fluorescein dye, which was placed in the water and
could be observed if the water entered the sewer system below. Adjustments also were
made for commercial operations that used water without returning it to the sanitary sewer
system; these adjustments involved investigation and were reviewed periodically.

There were a number of complaints from homeowners that the service charge made no
allowance for water used for lawn sprinkling. The Board of Arbitration looked at the
issue in 1952 and recommended setting a maximum sewer service charge. The County
Commission on January 1, 1953 implemented a $3.00 maximum charge on domestic
accounts consisting of one family unit. 23



                                           44
Act 886 of 1961 required every public water utility in Jefferson County to collect the
sewer charges levied under Act 619, upon the formal request of the County Commission.
A resolution making this request was adopted, and collection by the Birmingham Water
Works Board and Bessemer Utilities began thereafter.

Further improvements in the sanitary system through 1972. Even though the
construction program begun in 1951 focused on projects in established areas of the
Sanitary Sewer System, sewage treatment problems were growing in other areas of the
County. By the mid-1950’s Irondale’s treatment plant was ineffective because of
overloading and was discharging raw sewage into Shades Creek, which passed through
heavily populated areas. The County eliminated the plant altogether by extending the
Shades Valley sewer 8,000 feet to Irondale’s system and conveying the sewage to the
Shades Creek plant in Oxmoor. Although this plant was overloaded, it was considered
better to have pollution concentrated below that point rather than at Irondale. 24

By 1957, sewer overflows were again common, and County Health Officer Dr. Denison
was again calling for immediate action to diminish the threat of outbreaks of diseases
such as polio and typhoid that could result from the unsanitary conditions. Raw sewage
flowing in a drainage ditch near a neighborhood known as Market Village and behind
Gate City School had been linked with an outbreak of hepatitis. Denison urged a
comprehensive engineering survey be undertaken to evaluate the problem. The County
Engineering Department estimated that it would take another $10,000,000 to alleviate the
most pressing trouble points, and $30,000,000 to “do the job correctly.” 25

The City of Birmingham hired Harry Hendon and Associates to develop an improvement
program for its municipal sewer system in 1958. Hendon’s report began by pointing out
the inadequacies of the City’s system. Large sections of the system were constructed
before 1910 by smaller cities that later were incorporated into the City of Birmingham; in
many cases, these sewers were now inadequate, and record drawings of the underground
lines were either incomplete or nonexistent. Most of the sewers in the City were from 40
to 50 years old, with some sections 60 to 70 years old. The report estimated that sewer
repairs in Birmingham would require almost $7 million.

Hendon also pointed out that Birmingham’s sewage system was part of a unique
metropolitan system in which only the collecting sewers were owned and operated by the
cities, with the county having responsibility for the trunk lines and treatment plants. The
County, Hendon pointed out, had “pre-empted” sewer charges as a source of revenue for
modernization, which would make Birmingham’s program more difficult to finance. He
recommended that the Legislature be asked to levy a citywide sewer assessment. 26

This is an important point and suggests that the groundwork for eventual unification of
the sanitary sewer systems in Jefferson County was laid in 1951, when the County was
first to levy a sewer charge. Birmingham was not the only city having trouble with its
sewer system during this period. The City of Leeds began to operate its own sewage
treatment plant in 1938, but by the 1950s it fell into disrepair. The City entered an
operating agreement with the County in 1954, and sold the plant to the County for $1 in



                                            45
1973. The City of Trussville opened its plant in 1936 but ran into financial and operating
problems in the 1960s, culminating in a complaint by the State Health Department. The
City deeded its plant to the County in 1965. 27 In both cases, the municipality lacked the
resources and expertise to operate a sewage treatment plant in the most efficient manner.

A plan to replace the Shades Valley plant with a new facility farther downstream was
abandoned in the mid-1950s. Instead, the County opted for a two-part alternative
solution of upgrading the current plant and relieving its wastewater load by constructing a
new facility to serve Vestavia Hills and Hoover. 28 Delays in site selection led to
construction of a temporary septic tank on Columbiana Road at Patton Creek, allowing
development to continue while a permanent site was sought. A site along Patton Creek
finally was selected in 1957, and despite initial protests from area residents, the plant was
built and in operation by 1960. The County Health Officer had stated that “If we don’t
get a treatment plant on that side of the mountain, the area will just have to stop
growing.” 29 A new Shades Valley facility, designed to handle 2.5 times more sewage
volume than the old plant, went into operation in January of 1961. 30

In the fall of 1960, County Commissioners passed a resolution requiring all
municipalities to obtain permission before connecting to any of the County’s trunk lines.
The resolution required that all municipalities in Jefferson County produce maps showing
the location of new lateral lines that ultimately would connect onto County trunk lines
and that each municipality, developer, or land sub-divider obtain a $1.00 permit before
any future installations of lateral lines. At the same time, the County began an extensive
mapping project designed to protect its rights-of-way from municipal encroachment. 31

A trunk line to serve the Tarrant-Pinson Valley area was started in 1961 and completed in
1964. The County applied for federal matching funds in 1962 to allow further sewer
extensions, but it was unsuccessful. Sewer rate increases were considered in 1964 but
were not adopted. At the time, the fee was bringing in around $1,300,000 a year. 32 The
County issued $2,000,000 in sewer warrants and work began on a three-phase project to
enlarge the upper Valley Creek collector, replacing much of the original brick sewers that
were laid around 1905. Problems with collapsing sewer lines occurred continually as
construction progressed, 33 but the project was completed in 1965.

A 1965 study of the Cahaba River and Little Shades Creek basins by the County Health
and Engineering Departments found that the soils there would not support the use of
septic tanks. The growth potential for these quickly growing areas was very high, but
because they lacked a proper method of sewage disposal, the Health Department could
not give approval for new developments until there was assurance that a sewage
collection and treatment system would be constructed. The County Commission assured
the Health Department that it would have a suitable sewage collection and treatment
system for the two drainage areas in place by October 1968. 34

At a January 10, 1967 meeting of the Downtown Action Committee, County Commission
President W. Cooper Green gave leaders from around the Birmingham metropolitan area
a first look at a ten-year, $43,000,000 sewer improvement program that included 58



                                             46
separate sewer projects. Federal matching funds were expected to cover 30 percent of the
cost, about $13,000,000, and the County would have to come up with the remaining
$30,000,000. 35 However, there was, as yet, no source of funds for the local share.

Legislation allowing the County to extend sewers into unincorporated areas went into
effect in 1967. A process was created requiring residents to petition the County for an
Engineering Department survey, followed by a public hearing on the results. If residents
wanted the sewers, the County would construct them and assess property owners for the
cost over ten years. 36

In 1968, the County issued $10,000,000 in sewer warrants, which made possible the
financing of the improvements promised in the Cahaba River basin and on Little Shades
Creek. Construction of the Cahaba River plant complex began in February 1969. By
1972 the County had built that plant, the Cahaba trunk line, and a sewer on Little Shades
Creek.

The first sewer moratorium and sewer rate increase. The County began to feel the
pressure of federal and state water pollution regulations in August 1967, when a letter
from Alabama Water Improvement Commission (AWIC) Chairman and State Health
Officer Dr. Ira L. Myers ordered that plans be submitted within six months for upgrading
five treatment plants. The Five Mile Creek, Leeds, Trussville, Valley Creek, and Village
Creek facilities were all illegally bypassing raw sewage into their receiving streams.
AWIC promised legal action if plans to improve the plants were not submitted within the
deadline, along with specifications for trunk line sewers capable of transporting the waste
without overflowing. Plans to eliminate problems at each of the plants singled out by
AWIC were included in the County’s proposed $30,000,000 sewage plan, but financing
was not available. 37 The County proposed to upgrade the Five Mile Creek, Valley Creek,
and Village Creek plants. Operations at the badly overloaded Leeds and Trussville plants
were to cease when the planned Cahaba River plant went online.

On March 12, 1971, AWIC issued its first moratorium on new sewer connections in
Jefferson County. The moratorium forbade new connections anywhere in the County
system and fulfilled the 1967 warning of severe consequences for inaction. 38

Some federal funds were available, but they would cover only 30 percent of the cost
unless the state participated in funding, in which case the federal share would increase to
55 percent of the total cost. Increasing the sewer charge was an obvious consideration,
but at the time it was thought this would require legislative approval. The County’s
sewer service charge, which was $0.0975 per 100 cubic feet of metered water, averaged
about $3.00 on a residential customer’s quarterly water bill and had not been adjusted in
two decades. Other southeastern cities charged much more for sewage treatment. The
average family in Memphis paid $9.05; in New Orleans, $14.20; in Atlanta, $17.33; and
in Nashville, $23.32. 39

In April 1971, County Commissioners and Birmingham City officials successfully
pitched their plan to raise sewer rates to Jefferson County’s legislative delegation. Joined



                                            47
by a wide variety of supporters, including representatives from the Alabama
Conservancy, the Audubon Society, the Bass Anglers Association, the Birmingham Real
Estate Board, the Homebuilders Association, the Mortgage Bankers Association, and the
Sportsman’s Society, they proposed raising rates to $0.33 per 100 cubic feet of metered
water, with a maximum charge of $15.00 per quarter on customers’ water bills. The
delegation was also urged to support legislation which would require the state to
contribute 25 percent of the construction cost, which would be matched by the federal
government. The delegation agreed to introduce the legislation raising rates at the
legislature’s May 1971 session. 40

On April 28, 1971, AWIC instructed Jefferson County to present a plan for financing and
constructing improvements at the Valley Creek, Village Creek, and Five Mile Creek
treatment plants to create secondary treatment facilities of sufficient capacity to meet
state standards. The moratorium was lifted long enough to allow the Legislature time to
decide whether to approve increased sewer charges. The Commission would next meet
in June and ordered the County have a detailed program of plant construction and
financing prepared by then. AWIC officials strongly criticized the condition of the
County’s system, accusing the County of not enforcing its own regulations, which
prohibited the dumping of untreated industrial wastewater into the system. 41

In May 1971, the County was awarded a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) of $13 million, with $11.6 million earmarked to upgrade the three plants
to secondary treatment, and the remaining $1.9 million dedicated to the Cahaba River
sewage system. The County had already received $2 million in federal funds for the
plant upgrades. However, the grants would only be made if the County raised the
necessary matching funds. Unless the state participated, the County would have to put up
70 percent of the total cost on its own. 42

The State Legislature spent July and August in hearings and debates over bills related to
the sewer charge and sewer moratoriums. 43 All of this haggling turned out to be
unnecessary when the Alabama Supreme Court issued an advisory opinion on the sewer
charge bill that placed the establishment of sewer fees in the hands of the Jefferson
County Commission. The opinion held that two amendments to the bill which would
have limited the right of the Jefferson County Commission to set sewer rates were
unconstitutional. The Court pointed out that the people of Alabama, in ratifying
Amendment 73,

    gave to the governing body of Jefferson County alone the power and authority to adopt
    reasonable and nondiscriminatory rules and regulations fixing rates and charges for the
    use of the sewerage system and … the Legislature cannot dictate to the county
                                                                      44
    governing body in regard to the amount of such rates and charges.

This opinion in effect also meant that the rate limitation in Act 619, which had governed
sewer rates since 1949, was unconstitutional, although that specific question was not
before the Court. The ruling put an end to the debate over sewer rates and moved the
issue back to Birmingham.



                                              48
In late August 1971 the County hired an investment banking firm to perform the ground
work for the bond issue to finance the $30,000,000 program. However, that same month,
President Nixon issued a wage-price freeze, and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
informed Jefferson County in November 1971 that a sewer rate increase was forbidden
under the freeze. The County was caught in an impossible situation: the EPA had
ordered the County to clean up its waterways, but the IRS had forbidden the means by
which Jefferson County could upgrade its treatment plants. 45 The freeze was lifted in late
1971, and the County was finally able to raise its sewer rates.

At a heavily attended Commission meeting on January 11, 1972, Commissioners
unanimously approved raising sewer charges. 46 Fees were set at $0.33 per 100 cubic
feet of water used. The minimum charge was raised from $1.30 to $3.00 a quarter, and
the maximum charge was raised from $3.00 to $12.00. It was estimated that new
charges, which were set to go into effect April 1, would bring in $2.6 million a year,
which the County hoped would be enough to operate the current system and pay off the
bonds for a $30,000,000 program of planned improvements. 47 On Tuesday, February 1,
1972, Commissioners approved a $20,000,000 bond issue to be financed by the increased
sewer rates.

Although the Alabama Supreme Court had told the Legislature that the County could set
its own sewer rates, the legality of the new rates was challenged by a number of groups,
including the Alabama Consumers Association, which alleged that the raises were made
without proper notice and public hearing. 48 Also under contention was a clause in
Amendment 73, which had authorized the County to float a $10,000,000 bond issue in
1948. The clause stated, “The authority to issue bonds shall cease December 31, 1958.”
Opponents to the new rates interpreted this to mean that it was actually illegal for the
County to be issuing its current bonds and raising rates to pay for them. Proponents of
the program argued that the clause simply meant that the County could not issue any
more general obligation bonds, but that the Commission could still approve paying for
the multi-million dollar project with bonds financed by revenue from the sewer system
itself. 49 In order to avoid being ordered to hold a public hearing later, when it would
delay the construction of the sewer plant improvements, the County Commission
canceled the fee increase and scheduled a public hearing to be held on February 17,
1972. 50

A large crowd showed up on February 17. The commissioners took no part in the
discussion, explaining that all of the remarks were being recorded so they could study
them later. Many citizens expressed disappointment about the sewage increase and the
actions of the commissioners. 51 Nevertheless, the County Commission voted to reinstate
the rate increase thereafter.

A Jefferson County taxpayer thereupon filed suit against the Jefferson County
Commission. The suit argued that the County’s authority to issue bonds ended on
December 31, 1958. It attacked the rate increase as discriminatory against larger families
because it applied the residential rate limit to households with five or fewer members. It




                                            49
argued that the new rates exceeded the limit of 50 percent of the water bill in Act 619 of
1949, and did not follow the procedural requirements of Act 619. 52

When sewer bills with the new rates went out, complaints were heard from business and
residential customers. 53 The County Commission arranged a public hearing on August
15 for discussion and possible modifications to the sewer service rate. 54 Adjusted rates
were announced on August 1 by the County Commission. The increase in the minimum
quarterly rate to $3 was dropped, to accommodate the elderly and others with fixed
incomes, while the maximum $12 charge was reduced to $9. For non-residential users,
the County Commission announced a rate drop of 15 percent or more, based on water
consumption and the content of water discharged. This cut in rates would make it
necessary to reduce plans for major improvements. 55 The public hearing on August 15
brought a smaller than expected crowd, possibly because of the rate reductions
announced in advance. Nevertheless, the County Commission thereafter reduced the
maximum bill per quarter to $7.50, while setting the minimum bill at $2.50, to be
effective on September 1, 1972. Again in November, the Commission lowered bills “for
one quarter only” to a minimum fee of $2 and a maximum of $3 – almost entirely wiping
out the increase. 56

In December 1972, the trial court ruled in the lawsuit brought by Jefferson County
taxpayers that the County Commission’s action to raise the sewer service charge was
reasonable. 57 Nevertheless, the plaintiffs declined to waive their right to appeal unless
they received an agreement by the County Commission about future sewer rates, and the
County could not initiate a bond issue with litigation still pending. The crisis took on a
new urgency when AWIC ordered construction on the Valley Creek sewage treatment
plant no later than March 1, 1973. 58 The year 1972 ended with sewer improvements at a
standstill.

System expansion and upgrades, 1947-1972. During the period 1947 to 1972,
Jefferson County spent $29.1 million on sewer expansion and upgrades. 59 Table 6-1,
below, shows the distribution of these expenditures among stream basins. The largest
portion of this investment was made in the Village Creek basin to rehabilitate some of the
oldest facilities in the System. The Sanitary Sewer System was extended to the Cahaba
River basin during this time, and this required the second-largest sum of money during
the period. At the end of the period, three treatment facilities -- Five Mile Creek, Village
Creek, and Valley Creek -- were still using primary treatment technology, which removed
about half of the pollutants found in sewage, sometimes referred to as "wastewater." The
average daily capacities of the treatment plants in the system at 1972 are shown in Table
6-2.

        - Village Creek Basin. Expenditures for sewer improvements in this basin
totaled $13.5 million during the period. Improvements to the Village Creek treatment
plant were built from 1953 to 1958, totaling $5.8 million. In 1953-54, improvements
were made to the Village Creek trunk line sewer, including the construction of a
diversion tunnel from the Valley Creek basin; these projects totaled $7.4 million. In 1961
and 1962, branch sewers were extended in Ensley and Avondale.



                                            50
                                       TABLE 6-1

                                   Jefferson County
                             Sewer Improvement Contracts
                                       1947-1972

                            Cahaba River Basin    $ 7,955,592
                            Five Mile Creek Basin   1,109,775
                            Shades Creek Basin      3,195,923
                            Turkey Creek Basin        134,436
                            Valley Creek Basin      3,468,427
                            Village Creek Basin    13,515,332

                            Total                $ 29,379,486

                                       TABLE 6-2

                                    Jefferson County
                           Treatment Plant Average Capacity
                             in Millions of Gallons Per Day
                                           1972

                             Cahaba River                4.0
                             Five Mile Creek             3.0
                             Leeds                       0.3
                             Patton Creek                3.0
                             Shades Valley              10.0
                             Trussville                  0.3
                             Turkey Creek                0.3
                             Valley Creek               20.0
                             Village Creek              40.0

                             Total                      80.9

       - Valley Creek Basin. Expenditures for sewer improvements in this basin totaled
$3.4 million during the period. In 1953 and again in 1961, improvements were made at
the Valley Creek treatment plant, totaling $1.1 million. Branch sewer extensions were
made in Bessemer, Fairfield, Powderly, Broadmoor, Hueytown, and Garywood between
1958 and 1964, totaling another $1 million. The Upper Valley Creek Sewer was
constructed in 1964 at a cost of $1.4 million.

        - Shades Creek Basin. Expenditures for sewer improvements in this basin
totaled $3.2 million during the period. The Homewood-Griffin Creek Sewer was built in
1952 for $255,000. A number of sewer extensions were made between 1952 and 1963
(Mt. Brook relief sewer, Crestline Park, Irondale, Scott’s Branch, Birmingham Country
Club), totaling $551,000. The Shades Valley treatment plant was improved in 1960 at a
cost of $2.1 million. The Shades Creek Interceptor was built in 1972 for $256,000.

       - Five Mile Creek Basin. Expenditures of $1 million were made in this basin
during the period. The Five Mile Creek trunk sewer was improved between 1961 and


                                          51
1964 at a cost of $781,000. Extensions of branch sewers in Springdale and Center Point
were made between 1961 and 1964. A small addition was made to the Five Mile Creek
treatment plant.

       - Cahaba River Basin. During this period, the Sanitary Sewer System was
expanded into the Cahaba River Basin, and expenditures of $7.9 million were made in the
basin. In 1954, the County assumed control of the Leeds trunk sewer and treatment plant,
which had been built by the City of Leeds. The Patton Creek Sewer and treatment plant
were built between 1957 and 1960 at a cost of $3.2 million. In 1965, the County took
ownership of the Trussville treatment plant. Between 1970 and 1972, the Little Shades
Creek Sewer and Cahaba Interceptor were built for $1.9 million, and the Cahaba
treatment plant was built for $2.5 million.

       - Turkey Creek Basin. In 1972, County expenditures in the Turkey Creek Basin
began with improvements totaling $134,000. A temporary Turkey Creek plant was built
with federal funds and plans for a permanent facility were developed.

Staffing and organizational changes during the period. In 1946, the Sanitary Division
in the County Engineering Department had only 37 employees. Five years later, there
were 25 employees engaged in billing activities alone. This came about when the County
implemented a sewer charge in 1951. Since neither of the County's two water supply
utilities was willing to collect the charge, the County had to create a complete revenue
collection system, and no one in the County Engineering Department at the time had any
experience in billing or collection. In May 1950, the County hired four clerks to begin
the laborious process of determining which water customers were connected to the sewer
system, and the proper billing addresses. This was done by plotting sewer lines and
customer addresses on large maps. Arrangements were made with twelve companies to
serve as collection locations, in addition to the two courthouses, in exchange for a fee of
2.5 percent of collections. The County created a Billing Department with eighteen
employees and assigned seven staff members of the Engineering Department to inspect
and verify sewer connections. 60 Collection of the sewer service charge began on July 1,
1951.

In 1960, the County Engineering Department became the Public Works Department. The
Birmingham Water Works Board and Bessemer Utilities began to bill and collect the
sewer charge in 1961, reducing the County staff to involved in these activities to two
inspectors responsible for making sure that all sewer connections conformed to County
specifications and a three-person sewer verifications unit to determine who was
connected to the sewer so they could be billed. Sanitary system staff at the time totaled
about 75. 61

Staffing began to grow in the 1960s as the System added facilities and extended its lines.
The County assumed control of the Leeds system in 1954, built the Patton Creek system
in the late 1950s, took ownership of the Trussville system in 1965, built the Cahaba River
plant and line around 1970, and built a small Turkey Creek plant in 1972. Our best
benchmark to the staffing on hand at the end of this period comes from 1974, and is



                                            52
shown in Table 6-3. Employment in the treatment plants stood at 99; there were nine on
the staff of Barton Labs, which had begun to perform more frequent and more
sophisticated tests on the system; and there were 78 employees engaged in engineering,
construction, and maintenance activities.
                                          TABLE 6-3

                             Sanitary System Employment, 1974

                        Administration                              17
                        Maintenance & Construction                  78
                        Barton Labs                                  9
                        Wastewater Treatment Plants:
                          Village Creek                             33
                          Valley Creek                              10
                          Shades Valley                             20
                          Five Mile Creek                            7
                          Cahaba River                              13
                          Patton                                     9
                          Turkey Creek                               3
                          Leeds                                      2
                          Trussville                                 2
                          Maintenance shop                           9
                                                                   212

Sewer system finances during the period. Throughout the period 1947-1972, the sewer
property tax rate remained at 0.5 mills. The sewer service charge was initiated in 1951 at
a variable rate that approximated $0.0975 per 100 cubic feet of water usage. This rate
remained constant until 1972; after a series of adjustments in that year, the rate was set at
a flat amount of $0.17 per 100 cubic feet. Beginning in 1968, the County Commission
allocated part of its sales tax revenue to the Sanitary Sewer System to assist in the
financing of sewer warrants issued that year. Table 6-4 shows the amount of revenue
raised from these and other local sources at five-year intervals from 1950 to 1970. The
substantial increases in revenues that came with the sewer charge, and then with the sales
tax allocation, are evident in the table. On the spending side, the table shows increases in
plant operating and sewer maintenance expenditures as new facilities were brought
online, as well as rising debt service due to the increased borrowing that occurred during
this period.

The County Commission issued long-term debt on five occasions during this period. In
1951, $10,000,000 in general obligation bonds were issued as authorized under
Amendment 73 to the Constitution of Alabama. The authority to issue such bonds was
not used again and expired in 1958. Sanitary sewer construction warrants backed by
specific revenue sources were issued four times, as follows:

•   $ 1,000,000 in 1954
•   $ 1,500,000 in 1958
•   $ 2,000,000 in 1964
•   $10,000,000 in 1968


                                             53
                                                 TABLE 6-4

                        Jefferson County Sewer System Finances, 1950-1970

                                   1950           1955            1960             1965            1970
Revenues

Property Tax                   $ 230,154     $     299,739    $     414,150   $      505,500   $     609,285
Sewer Charges                                    1,085,000        1,240,000        1,308,620       1,507,500
Sales Tax                                                                                          1,582,560
Interest                                             5,600           7,000           33,488          205,320
Other                               1,886              425           1,880              430            3,730

Total                          $ 232,040     $ 1,390,764      $ 1,663,130     $ 1,850,738      $ 3,908,395

Operating Expenditures

Administration                 $    6,761    $     107,924    $    123,932    $     158,854    $     194,246
Plant Operations                   53,416          119,346         549,705          498,703          705,817
Engineering & Construction                          28,046          26,225           96,046          377,129
Maintenance                        14,641           23,746          37,476          111,681          241,623
Debt Service                       30,158          493,025         694,500          872,132        1,600,619

Total Operating                $ 104,976     $     772,087    $ 1,431,838     $ 1,737,416      $ 3,119,434

Sources:
Engineering Report and Bond Prospectus , J. W. Goodwin Engineering Co., 1951
Budget of the Jefferson County Commission, October 1, 1954 to September 30, 1955
Budget of the Jefferson County Commission, October 1, 1959 to September 30, 1960
Budget of the Jefferson County Commission, October 1, 1964 to September 30, 1965
Budget of the Jefferson County Commission, October 1, 1969 to September 30, 1970




Figure 7 shows the major components of the Jefferson County Sanitary Sewer System as
they existed in 1972.

The year 1972 marked the end of the fourth period in the history of the Jefferson County
Sanitary Sewer System. This was the last year in which the initiative for development of
the sewer system was primarily local in nature. The adoption of the Clean Water Act by
Congress signaled the dawn of an era in which priorities were set in a much larger arena
that included state and federal environmental agencies.




                                                    54
    FIGURE 7. MAJOR COMPONENTS OF THE SANITARY SEWER SYSTEM IN 1972

                                                                                                            7. TRUSSVILLE
                                                                                                            LINES & PLANT
                                                                      RK
                                                                  T FO
                                                                                       TU
                         4. BOYLES LINES & PLANT
                                                                US                        RK
                                                           L OC                              EY
                                                                                                CR
                                                                                                  .
                                                          FIV
                                                             E                                         IN
                                                                 MI
                                                                    LE                               TA
                                                                         CR                        UN
                                                                           .                     MO
                              ER                           PRUDES CR.                       ND
                           IV                                                             SA
                         R                          VIL                            4                             7
                     R                                 LAG
                    O                                     EC
                  RI                                        R.                 1                                     5
               AR
              W                                                                                                   ER
         CK                   VA                                              Y                                    IV
       LA                       LL                                         LE                                  AR
      B                           EY
                                       CR                              V AL       IN                        HAB
                                         .                          ES        TA                         CA
                                                   2           J ON       O UN
                                                                        M 3                             5. LEEDS LINES & PLANT
                                                                     ED EY
                                                                    R L
                                                                                     6     8
                                              T.




                                                                      L
                                                                    VA                          1. VILLAGE CREEK LINES &
                                             M
                                           CK




                                                                  S                                PLANT
                                                               DE
                                        RO




                                                                                N
                                                           SHA               AI             8. CAHABA RIVER LINES & PLANT
                                                                            T
                                                                         UN
                                                             CR.        O            6. PATTON CREEK LINES & PLANT
                                                          S           M
                                                        DE         ES        3. SHADES CREEK LINES & PLANT
                                                     SH
                                                       A        AD
                                                             SH          2. VALLEY CREEK LINES & PLANT




1
  “Condition of Sewers Held Peril,” The Birmingham News, April 1, 1947.
2
  Ibid. “City May Once Again Become Typhoid Capital,” The Birmingham News, September 24, 1948.
3
  “Legislators Get Proposal for Sewers,” The Birmingham News, August 1, 1947.
4
  “Inadequate City, County Sewers Labeled Public Health Menace,” The Birmingham News, April 1,
1947.
5
  “Breakdown in Our Sanitary Sewer System,” The Birmingham News, February 27, 1948.
6
  “Old Sewers Threatening County’s Health, Progress,” The Birmingham News, June 30, 1949.
7
  Alvord, Burdick & Howson, and Polglaze and Basenberg Associates, Report on Collecting Sewers and
Sewage Treatment for the Birmingham Metropolitan Area, Jefferson County, Alabama, 1948.
8
  Barton, “History of the Development of the Sewerage System of Jefferson County.”
9
  “City May Once Again Become Typhoid Capital,” The Birmingham News, September 24, 1948
10
   “Old Sewers Threatening County’s Health, Progress,” The Birmingham News, June 30, 1949.
11
   “10 Million Dollar Program For Sewers Given County,” The Birmingham Post-Herald, May 6, 1949.
12
   Barton, “History of the Development of the Sewerage System of Jefferson County.”
13
   Ibid.
14
   Ibid.
15
   Engineering Report and Bond Prospectus in Connection with the Financing of $10,000,000 of
Collecting Sewers and Sewage Treatment Works for Jefferson County Alabama, 1951.
16
   Barton, “History of the Development of the Sewerage System of Jefferson County.”
17
   “Jefferson County streams called unfit for swimming,” The Birmingham News, June 14, 1953.
18
   “The Jefferson County Sanitary Sewer Program.”
19
   “County Commission Headache: Sewer Rental Collections Method is Still Undecided,” The
Birmingham News, January 22, 1950.
20
   Barton, “History of the Development of the Sewerage System of Jefferson County.”
21
   “Bills for county sewage disposal cause protests,” The Birmingham News, August 1, 1951.




                                                                         55
22
    “Crisis may be approaching for county is delinquent sewer service bills,” The Birmingham News,
December 16, 1951.
23
    “The Jefferson County Sanitary Sewer Program.”
24
    “Mayor tells plan to end sewage plant’s pollution of Shades Valley Creek,” The Birmingham News, July
15, 1953.
25
    “Jeffco health officer urges sanitation effort,” The Birmingham News, February 13, 1957. “Sewer
System Survey Talked,” The Birmingham Post Herald, February 15, 1957.
26
    Harry Hendon and Associates Engineers, Birmingham, Alabama Sanitary Sewerage Improvement
Program, October 1958. “City sewers found overloaded, dangerous,” The Birmingham News, December
18, 1958.
27
    Ordinance No. 284, City of Leeds, July 19, 1954; Ordinance No. 377, City of Leeds, January 29, 1973.
City of Trussville Ordinance No. 101, January 26, 1965.
28
    “Green light for Vestavia sewer,” The Shades Valley Sun, December 13, 1956.
29
    “Residents urge new site for county sewage plant,” The Birmingham News, March 6, 1957.
30
    “Low Bid Tentatively Accepted For Shades Valley Treatment Plant,” The Birmingham Post-Herald,
July 2, 1958.
31
    “County Oks resolution on trunk sewer lines,” The Birmingham News, September 24, 1960.
32
    “Jeffco May Up Fee On Sewer Service,” The Birmingham News, January 21, 1964.
33
    “Sewer Repair Is Pushed,” The Birmingham Post-Herald, July 30, 1964; “Action To ‘Deodorize’
Village Creek Taken,” [sic., should read “Valley Creek”] The Birmingham News, May 19, 1965.
34
    “Commission Gives Sewer Commitment,” The Birmingham Post Herald, July 29, 1965.
35
   “Metro’s Story,” The Birmingham News, January 10, 1967.
36
    “Way Now Clear for Sewers in Unincorporated Areas,” The Birmingham News, November 8, 1967.
37
    “Jeffco Ordered to Correct 5 Sewage Treatment Plants,” The Birmingham News, August 3, 1967.
38
    “Sewer Permit Halt Ordered for Jefferson,” The Birmingham Post-Herald, March 13, 1971.
39
    “Sewer Service Charge Hike Eyed,” The Birmingham Post-Herald, March 23, 1971.
40
    “Jeffco Solons Asked to Back Boost in Sewer Service Fee,” The Birmingham News, April 27, 1971.
“County Sewer Rate Hike Plan Receives Favorable Reception,” The Birmingham Post-Herald, April 27,
1971.
41
    “Legislature Must Bail Out Jeffco By Allowing Higher Fees for Sewers,” The Birmingham News, April
29, 1971.
42
    “County to Get $13 Million in Sewer Funds,” The Birmingham News, May 20, 1971. “Green Hails
Word of Funds for Sewerage but Adds ‘if’,” The Birmingham Post-Herald, May 21, 1971.
43
    “Hearing Airs Plans for Sewer Services,” The Birmingham News, July 27, 1971; “Delegation OKs
sewer charge hike,” The Birmingham Post-Herald, July 30, 1971; “Gilmore is Concerned over Sewer
Charge Bill’s Delay,” The Birmingham Post-Herald, August 8, 1971; “Gloor’s Plea Halts AWIC
Moratorium on Sewage Tie-ins,” The Birmingham News, August 13, 1971.
44
    Opinion of the Justices No. 206, Supreme Court of Alabama, August 17, 1971 (287 Ala. 337; 251 So. 2d
755).
45
    “Freeze Holding lid on Waste Cleanup,” The Birmingham News, November 12, 1971.
46
    “Sewer Rate Increase OK seen,” The Birmingham Post-Herald, January 6, 1972. “Increase Voted in
Sewer Service Fee,” The Birmingham News, January 12, 1972.
47
    “$2.6 million Seen from Sewer Fees,” The Birmingham Post-Herald, January 13, 1972.
48
    “Sewer Plans Threatened,” The Birmingham News, February 6, 1972.
49
    “Will Voters Decide Sewer Bonds Issue?” The Birmingham News, February 15, 1972.
50
    “Sewer Service Fee Increase Repealed,” The Birmingham News, February 8, 1972.
51
    “Crowd Can’t Get in to Hearing,” The Birmingham Post Herald, February 18, 1972.
52
    "Housewife Files Suit Against Sewer Hike," The Birmingham News, March 4, 1972.
53
    "Sewer Charges Bring Complaints," The Birmingham Post-Herald, April 5, 1972; “Jeffco Considering
Lower Sewer Rates,” The Birmingham News, June 21, 1972.
54
    “Big Bad Water-Sewer Bill,” The Birmingham News, July 30, 1972.
55
    “Sewer Fees Lowered; $3 Minimum Dropped,” The Birmingham News, August 1, 1972.
56
    “County Adjusts Sewer Tax Downward for One Quarter,” The Birmingham Post Herald, November 1,
1972.
57
    “Judge OKs Hike in Sewer Charges,” The Birmingham News, December 9, 1972.


                                                  56
58
   “Sewer Crisis is Assuming New Urgency,” The Birmingham Post-Herald, December 20, 1972.
59
   This total and the details below come from a project list maintained in the Jefferson County
Environmental Services Department, which covers projects from 1947 to date.
60
   Barton, “History of the Development of the Sewerage System of Jefferson County.”
61
   Personal interview with Jim Wright, hired as an inspector in 1961.




                                                  57
                                      CHAPTER 7

     THE SANITARY SEWER SYSTEM FROM THE CLEAN WATER ACT
                TO THE CONSENT DECREE, 1973-1996

The year 1973 marked the beginning of a new era in the operation of sanitary sewage
systems in the United States. Prior to this year, such systems were subject mainly to state
and local legal requirements; afterward, they were held to national standards that
normally were delegated to state agencies for administration. The application of stringent
discharge standards to Jefferson County waterways in the mid 1970s meant that County
administrators had to develop methods of planning, financing, constructing, and
operating facilities of the Sanitary Sewer System so that they continuously met external
legal requirements. The learning curve was steep, and for more than twenty years the
County was forced to suffer periodic penalties associated with insufficient capacity and
substandard performance.

The advent of federal water quality standards and enforcement. The federal
government first began to provide state and local governments with technical assistance
funds for water quality planning and research in 1952, and later began to develop
standards for pollution control. In 1970, pollution-control responsibilities were
consolidated into the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In 1972 Congress
adopted the Clean Water Act with federal standards and enforcement; rules and
regulations began to be issued in 1973.

Before these rules and regulations, the discharge of raw sewage into watercourses to
bypass overloaded treatment plants was widespread, and was perfectly legal. The Clean
Water Act required all municipal and industrial wastewater to receive treatment before
being discharged into a navigable waterway, set standards for acceptable levels of
treatment, and authorized penalties for failure to meet these requirements. The law called
for zero discharge of pollutants by 1985 and, wherever possible, waters that were both
“fishable” and “swimmable” by mid-1983.

The secondary treatment requirement. A key requirement of the Clean Water Act was
that publicly owned wastewater treatment plants must achieve effluent standards based
on “secondary treatment,” as defined by the Administrator of EPA. The secondary
treatment regulation, issued in August 1973, created the following effluent standards:

•   Biochemical oxygen demand, five-day (BOD5) and suspended solids (SS) could
    average no more than 30 milligrams per liter in a period of 30 consecutive days.
•   BOD5 and SS could average no more that 45 milligrams per liter in a period of 7
    consecutive days.
•   The treatment facility must remove 85 percent of BOD5 and SS from the wastewater
    stream in a period of 30 consecutive days.
•   Effluent values for pH must be maintained between 6.0 and 9.0 unless certain
    conditions were met. 1



                                            58
The Clean Water Act included civil, criminal, and administrative enforcement
procedures, and also permitted enforcement by private parties through lawsuits. All
discharges into waterways were deemed illegal unless authorized by a National Pollutant
Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. Federal grants also became available
for the construction of new facilities and improvements to existing plants, in accordance
with a wastewater facilities plan. 2

Initiation of treatment plant improvements to meet the secondary treatment
requirement. To meet the secondary treatment requirement, the County began in 1973
to commit funds from its 1972 sewer rate increase toward improvements in the five
primary treatment plants that remained in the System. 3

•   The Leeds plant was improved in 1974 from primary to secondary treatment
    capability and expanded to raise its capacity to 1 MGD, at a cost of $1.1 million.
•   The Trussville plant was improved from primary to secondary treatment capability
    and expanded to raise its capacity to 1.2 MGD. These improvements were completed
    in 1975 at a cost of $800,000.
•   The Valley Creek plant was improved from primary to secondary treatment capability
    and expanded to raise its capacity to 35 MGD. These improvements were completed
    in 1976 at a cost of $14.5 million.
•   A new Five Mile Creek secondary treatment plant was built at Lower Coalburg to
    replace the old Boyles primary treatment facility, which was decommissioned. The
    new plant had a capacity of 20 MGD and was completed in 1977 at a cost of $11.9
    million.
•   The Village Creek plant was improved from primary to secondary treatment
    capability with a capacity of 40 MGD. These improvements were completed in 1978
    at a cost of $21.8 million. 4

In addition to local revenues from sewer fees and other sources, the $50 million required
to finance these projects included state and federal participation. From 1973 to 1976,
federal construction grants totaled $24.5 million and state contributions totaled $1.8
million. 5

Thus, five years after the promulgation of the secondary treatment requirement, the
Jefferson County Sanitary Sewer System achieved secondary treatment in all of its
facilities. From this point forward, improving the quality of treated effluent ceased to be
the principal issue for the County; rather, enlarging the capacity of the sanitary system to
handle the increasing volume of wastewater flows generated by urban development
became the focus.

The development of a metropolitan wastewater facilities plan. In 1972 the EPA
provided $400,000 in water pollution planning funds to Jefferson County under Section
201 of the Clean Water Act, on a 50-50 matching basis. In 1973 the County hired the
engineering firm of Black, Crow & Eidsness to conduct a metropolitan wastewater
facilities planning study. The study area included all of Jefferson County and the
portions of Shelby and St. Clair counties that lay within the Cahaba River basin. The


                                             59
study, completed in 1975, assumed completion of the upgrades to provide secondary
treatment in all plants within the System, and concentrated on the improvements
necessary following these upgrades. It recommended the following improvements over a
20-year period in the Cahaba and Warrior basins: 6

Cahaba River Basin
• Complete an infiltration/inflow evaluation and rehabilitate existing facilities to allow
   treatment plant operation without bypasses; replace the Leeds trunk line.
• Operate the Leeds and Trussville plants until they reach their capacities (1980-1985),
   then abandon them and either convey wastewater to a new 6 MGD treatment plant
   near Overton, or convey wastewater to the existing Cahaba River treatment plant.
• Convert the Patton Creek treatment plant to a pumping station and pump wastewater
   to the Cahaba River treatment plant, which would be upgraded over time to 14 MGD.
• Extend the Cahaba River interceptor sewer to a point beyond Fuller Creek near
   Overton.
• Construct a reservoir system, possibly on Big Black Creek, to regulate Cahaba River
   flows and compensate for the Birmingham Water Works diversion to Lake Purdy,
   cutting in half the cost of treatment meeting stream standards.

    Shades Creek
•   Upgrade the Shades Creek treatment plant, expand it to 10 MGD, and create an odor
    control program (County staff and a Citizens Advisory Committee disagreed,
    recommending abandonment of the existing plant and building a new plant
    downstream, which the consultant said was not cost-effective).
•   Construct a sewer in the Little Shades Creek basin and pump its wastewater for
    treatment at the Valley Creek plant.

Warrior River Basin
• Complete an infiltration/inflow evaluation and rehabilitate existing facilities (except
  Turkey Creek) to allow treatment plant operation without bypasses.

    Five Mile Creek
•   Provide sewer service to Gardendale and Fultondale.
•   Construct interceptor sewers along Five Mile Creek from the existing plant to the new
    plant, and along Black Creek from the County Farm to the Five Mile Creek
    interceptor.
•   Extend the Upper Five Mile Creek trunk and build a Fernwood relief sewer.
•   Add a capability for mechanical dewatering of sludge to the Five Mile Creek plant, as
    a backup for sludge drying beds.

    Valley Creek
•   Provide sewer service to Pleasant Grove through an interceptor sewer along Rock
    Creek and a pumped discharge to the Opossum Creek interceptor sewer.
•   Build a relief trunk for the Valley Creek interceptor between the Broadmoor station
    and the plant, extending to Border Street as funds become available.
•   Convey flows from the McCalla area to the Valley Creek plant.


                                            60
•   Add a capability for mechanical dewatering of sludge to the Valley Creek plant, as a
    backup for sludge drying beds.

    Village Creek
•   Provide sewer service downstream of the existing plant near Bayview Lake, sizing
    the collection system to receive flows from Adamsville and Graysville and pumping
    the wastewater upstream to the existing Village Creek plant.

    Turkey Creek
•   Abandon the oxidation ditch facility at the existing treatment plant; build at the
    current site a 2.5 MGD activated sludge facility using concrete basins.

This plan was adopted by the Jefferson County Commission as well as AWIC and
became the basis for sewer improvements in the County.

The study pointed out that Jefferson County's sewer service charge was in violation of
federal regulations, in that it provided rate discounts for high-volume users. EPA
regulations required flat rates, with savings resulting from economies of scale shared
among all users. Therefore, the report recommended that Jefferson County conduct a rate
study and come into compliance with federal requirements.

The 1976 rate study and 1977 sewer charge increases. The County Commission's only
experience in raising rates had come in 1972, when sewer charges were raised, on
average, from $0.0975 to $0.17 per hundred cubic feet of water use. Circumstances were
different this time, in that the County had little choice but to change its rate structure due
to federal requirements. Following the recommendation of the 201 planning study, the
County Commission hired Robert Stubbs, Inc., to conduct a comprehensive wastewater
rate analysis. The consultant's 1976 report proposed three measures, all adopted by the
Commission in 1977: 7

•   A uniform volume charge of $0.30 per hundred cubic feet of discharge, implemented
    in February 1977. This rate increase affected all users of the Sanitary Sewer System.
•   An industrial surcharge for users discharging wastes with pollutant loadings in excess
    of the maximum allowable for domestic users, implemented in February 1977. This
    new fee affected users whose discharges contributed disproportionately to the
    treatment requirements for wastewater in the System.
•   An impact connection fee of $300 per equivalent residential unit on new connections,
    implemented in May 1977. This affected new customers who were requiring the
    System to expand its capacity.

Initiation of an ongoing capital improvements program. Improvements to the
Sanitary Sewer System during its first seven decades had been made infrequently and
only when money could be raised for specific projects. In 1976 the County developed a
different approach, creating a multi-year capital improvements program (CIP) based on
the 201 facilities plan and the projected revenue from sewer rate increases as well as state
contributions and federal construction grants that were "assumed but not formally


                                             61
committed." The CIP incorporated the treatment plant improvements begun in 1973 and
other high-priority projects from the 201 plan, with the required cash flow projected over
the period 1977-1985. The resources required to implement the first five years of the
program (1977-1981) totaled $109 million from federal and local sources -- $66.3 million
from federal construction grants and $42.7 million from local sources. 8

Actual commitment of the assumed federal grants was critical to meeting the
improvement schedule, since these funds were to provide over sixty percent of the
financing. Regular increases in sewer charges also were critical. The CIP’s cash flow
schedule counted on increases in the volume charge for sewer usage to $0.36 per hundred
cubic feet in 1980 and then to $0.43 per hundred cubic feet in 1983.

The urgency of implementing this program of improvements was heightened by the
moratoriums on connecting to the sewer system in the fast-growing portions of Jefferson
County that had begun in the fall of 1975.

Moratoriums on connections to the sanitary system. While the County had
concentrated on upgrading its outdated primary treatment facilities during the 1970s, the
ongoing process of suburbanization within Jefferson County was creating development
pressures in the Shades Creek, Cahaba River, and Turkey Creek basins. As housing
developments mushroomed in outlying areas of the County, the capacities of sewer
systems in these basins were exceeded. Mayors, chambers of commerce, and developers
in these areas wanted to accommodate the growth; environmental and other citizens'
groups wanted it controlled. There was no impact fee at the time to generate up-front
revenue from development, and so the County was unable to meet the demand for
increased capacity in these basins while simultaneously financing plant upgrades in the
others. Something had to give.

        - Shades Valley moratorium. In July of 1974 various citizens' groups asked
AWIC to put a stop to any new developments that would add wastewater flow to the
Shades Valley plant, on the grounds that it was already overloaded and was bypassing
raw sewage into Shades Creek. 9 After investigating the claim, AWIC found that
Jefferson County was violating state law by dumping raw sewage and implemented a
moratorium on sewer connections in the area on September 8, 1975. 10 This moratorium
remained in effect until November 1978. 11

The source of the problem was old sewers installed in the 1920's that allowed ground
water to leak into the collection system during wet weather. The Shades Valley plant
could not handle all the volume created when this flow was added to the normal
wastewater load, and the excess was diverted, untreated, into Shades Creek.

When the AWIC moratorium ended, Jefferson County imposed a ban of its own.
Penalties for exceeding the plant's permitted discharge volume ran up to $50,000 a day
and a year in prison for each day’s violation, forcing the County to keep the connection
ban in place until the system could be brought up to EPA standards. 12 A small number of
applicants who already had state discharge permits were permitted to connect in January



                                           62
1979, but the County only allocated 100,000 gallons of the plant's daily capacity for this
purpose and rationed it among the applicants. 13

The County's plan for correcting the Shades Creek capacity problem involved repairs to
the Shades Valley trunk line to remove excess storm water infiltration, and constructing a
17-mile sewer line down the Creek to a point opposite Bessemer, where wastewater
would be transferred to the Valley Creek plant for treatment. Under the plan, the Shades
Valley plant would be closed. The pipeline would be designed to handle 50 MGD of
sewage, with the initial load being 15 MGD. The plan was controversial for two reasons.
First, it transferred water between the Cahaba and Warrior basins, which concerned
environmentalists; and second, it transferred sewer loads from "over the mountain" areas
to the Jones Valley area, which concerned the Mayor of Birmingham. Other alternatives
were considered, but construction on the Shades Valley Transfer line began in November
1981. The moratorium finally ended in April1984. 14

        - Cahaba River moratorium. In February 1976 Jefferson County, under
instructions from the EPA, ordered a moratorium on sewage connections to lines serving
the Cahaba River and Patton Creek plants. 15 EPA had granted the request of a citizens'
group for an environmental impact statement (EIS) on the projects contained within the
wastewater facilities (201) plan that affected the Cahaba River basin. The granting of the
EIS request prohibited the EPA from allocating any federal funds for sewage plant
improvements in the basin until completion of the EIS, which did not occur until August
1979. 16 The 201 study recommended closing the Patton Creek plant and allowing the
upgraded Cahaba plant to handle all of the sewage in the area.

In September 1977, the EPA rejected the County’s request to increase the Cahaba River
plant's permit to 4 MGD, and proposed reducing the plant’s capacity to 2.4 MGD because
the Cahaba River had been designated a “fish and wildlife” stream under provisions of
the Clean Water Act, which required higher water quality standards. 17 Later, however,
the EPA granted a permit for 3.3 MGD. 18 In the late 1970’s a host of proposed
developments planned along the new I-459 corridor where it would meet I-20, U.S. 280,
I-65, and U.S. 31 were stalled by the sewer connection moratorium in the Cahaba Valley.
Improvement and expansion of the Cahaba River plant in the early 1980s finally led to
the end of that moratorium in mid-1985; the moratorium on the Patton Creek plant ended
in December 1987.

        - Turkey Creek moratorium. Growth in the northeast section of Jefferson
County also took off in the 1970’s, and Center Point, Chalkville, and Brewster Valley
experienced rapid population influxes, which affected the sewer systems that served these
areas. In June 1977, the County Commission restricted development by stopping
building in these areas that would require “pumping of sewage from the Turkey Creek
drainage basin, which serves the north end of Brewster Valley, into the Brewster Valley
system.” Developers planned to pump sewage into the overloaded Brewster Valley
system when raw sewage was already overflowing into Five Mile Creek at the junction of
the Brewster Valley and Five Mile Creek lines. 19 On May 2, 1978, Jefferson County
banned sewer tie-on's for the Turkey Creek sewer system, which was within 200,000



                                            63
gallons per day of its capacity, except on a controlled allocation basis. 20 Many residents
in the area experienced sanitary problems with their septic tank systems and petitioned
the County for access to the sewage system. 21 The moratorium lasted until 1982, when
expansion of the Turkey Creek treatment plant created the capacity to treat the volume of
wastewater generated in the basin. 22

In 1979, the Birmingham News reported that the effects of the sewage moratoriums were
not as severe as many had predicted: “Jefferson County building has continued at a
steady clip. Building permits for new construction were down slightly last year, less than
7% below the number of permits issued in 1977, a peak building year.” With the
moratoriums, many developments were built with septic tanks; and in 1980, the News
reported a problem with septic tank leakage in Irondale. 23 The County Health
Department began to require that new toilets and shower heads be of the water-saving
type, cutting down substantially on the amount of water required. 24

Extension of sewer availability to residents of other counties. In order to avoid
construction of a parallel sewer system in the Hoover area within the Cahaba River basin,
the Jefferson County Commission made the Sewer System available in 1977 to Shelby
County residents at a rate double that paid by Jefferson County users. The Commission
received criticism from those who felt that the move facilitated and even encouraged
movement out of Jefferson County. 25 This policy of charging a double rate to out-of-
County users was also implemented in Leeds, where residents of both St. Clair and
Shelby counties were hooked onto Jefferson County sewer lines.

However, on October 10, 1986 the City of Leeds filed suit against Jefferson County. The
City’s chief allegations were that the charges were in violation of a contract between the
City and Jefferson County, which required the County to provide residents of the City of
Leeds with sewer service at “a cost that is equitable to all users” and pledged that the
County would not disrupt the natural growth of Leeds in a northeasterly or southwesterly
manner, which involved its growth into Shelby and St. Clair counties. The City believed
that the double-rate policy was not equitable and that the rates were affecting the “natural
growth” of the area by discouraging development in portions of Leeds that lay outside the
County. The "contract" to which the City referred was actually a January 1973 letter
from the Jefferson County Public Works Commissioner to the Leeds Mayor. The County
argued that promises by one Commissioner were not binding on the whole Commission,
that Amendment 73 gave the County broad powers to set its sewer rates, and that the
double-rate policy had already been implemented in the Riverchase development in
Shelby County.

The case went to trial in June of 1993, and in February 1994 the trial judge ruled in favor
of the City of Leeds, requiring the County to charge St. Clair and Shelby County Leeds
residents only 1.25 times the rate charged those living in Jefferson County. Jefferson
County appealed, and the case went to the State Supreme Court. In a decision finalized
on March 1, 1996, the Court affirmed the trial court’s decision in finding that the
Commissioner's letter did constitute a contract between the County and the City, which
the County had a duty to honor. However, the Court reversed the trial court’s setting of a



                                            64
sewer rate and remanded the case to the trial court with directions to “issue an order
directing the Jefferson County Commission to establish an equitable rate” for sewer
service. 26 The County and Leeds settled on a charge for out-of-County users of 1.12
times the charge for users in Jefferson County.

Slowdown in improvements due to funding issues. Implementation of the CIP
developed in 1976 was slow. The County did not issue the first $10 million of sanitary
sewer construction warrants until December 1977, and there was only a conditional plan
for obtaining the rest of the funds required to carry out the program. The Official
Statement defined the $10,000,000 as

    a portion of the $15,000,000 authorization intended to fund the first half of the total
    long-term funding requirement of the Five-Year Capital Improvement Program. The
    remaining authorization of $5,000,000 is expected to be issued in the fiscal year ending
    September 30, 1978. The remaining $15,000,000 in long-term funding for the second
    half of the Five-Year Capital Improvement Program is expected to be a tax exempt
                                                                                         27
    issue authorized and issued during the fiscal years ending September 30, 1979-81.

None of the bond issues planned for the years 1979 to 1981 were implemented.

Federal funding also fell short of expectations. In 1979 the EPA announced the first in a
series of cutbacks in federal construction grants, bringing Alabama’s allocations down
from $53 million to no more than $10 million.

In 1980 the County Commission raised sewer rates substantially more than had been
projected originally in the CIP. The volume charge was raised from $0.30 per 100 cubic
feet of water usage to $0.49 per 100 cubic feet, with a 15 percent allowance to residential
customers for water not returned to the sewer system through lawn sprinkling or other
uses. For a typical residential user of 1,000 cubic feet of water per month, the sewer bill
would rise from $2.55 to $4.17. The impact fee was raised from $300 per residential-
unit-equivalent to $37.50 per plumbing fixture for each new fixture added to the System.
It was calculated that residential additions averaged nine fixtures, creating an impact fee
of $337.50.

These large fee increases compensated in part for the fact that neither borrowing nor
federal grants were producing cash flow as rapidly as the County had projected.
However, the failure to finance projects as soon as planned meant that the moratoriums
would have to remain in place longer than expected originally. In September 1981,
Assistant Sanitation Engineer Jack Swann estimated the remaining cost of relieving both
valley moratoriums at $70 million. 28

Companies wanting to locate in Jefferson County or expand their current operations had
different responses to the difficulties posed by the moratoriums. Some found innovative,
though costly, ways around the moratoriums. South Central Bell invested $750,000 in a
private on-site sewage treatment plant for a workforce of 2,000 at its new multi-million
dollar Alabama Operations Center on U.S. 280. However, many other businesses were
forced to simply wait out the moratoriums. For example, because no alternate sewage


                                               65
treatment plant could be built on Brookwood Medical Center’s mountainside location,
expansion plans for the hospital were put on hold. 29

Developers were turning to private sewage operators or on-site solutions, a trend that
inevitably would lead to high costs in the long run. As one report stated, “This
proliferation of relatively untested, and poorly regulated, small treatment facilities, has
resulted from the unavailability of public sewerage systems…. Small scale systems have
been found to be 5 to 10 times as expensive on a per-unit basis as the proposed public
system. These unreasonable costs are being borne by the public as the only current
alternative available, if any development is to take place.” 30

Awards for treatment plant operations. During these years, the County’s treatment
plants were often recognized as the best-operated plants in the state in annual awards
competitions. In 1979, the Valley Creek and Trussville plants won awards for best-
operated treatment plants in their size categories. 31 The Cahaba plant won in 1976, 1977,
and 1978, after which it was ineligible for a time. 32

The Wastewater Facilities Development Committee report. Since the only way to
meet water quality standards was to build the capacity of the Sanitary Sewer System to
handle all wastewater flows generated in the County, the declining availability of federal
funds meant that users of the System would have to pay substantially more in fees. 33 The
County Commission created a blue-ribbon Wastewater Facilities Development
Committee in 1981 to find alternatives to federal funding. The Committee worked for
two years, developing a priority list of 48 projects costing $157 million and
recommending a bond issue and substantial increases in sewer charges over a five-year
period to pay for them. The Committee emphasized that:

    The project list does not constitute a final solution to the Jefferson County wastewater
    problem and program. It will accomplish the mandatory, but more limited objective of
    'catch up' and place this area significantly ahead of the growth curve. Future public
    servants must address the problem of continued expansion and technical progress….

The Committee's April 1983 report called for a bond issue of $110 million in 1984 and
increases in the volume charge for sewer usage, which was then $0.49 per hundred cubic
feet, as follows:

•   1984:   $1.02 per hundred cubic feet
•   1985:   $1.31 per hundred cubic feet
•   1986:   $1.38 per hundred cubic feet
•   1987:   $1.48 per hundred cubic feet
•   1988:   $1.50 per hundred cubic feet

The report noted that these charges would remain very low when compared with other
metropolitan communities. 34




                                               66
Late in 1983, the County Commission raised sewer rates for 1984, but not to the level
recommended by the blue-ribbon report. The new rates increased the volume charge
from a flat $0.49 per 100 cubic feet to a tiered rate of $0.86 for the first 200 cubic feet
and $0.98 per 100 cubic feet for all usage above that level, keeping the 15 percent
residential allowance. For the typical residential user of 1,000 cubic feet per month, the
sewer bill would average $0.882 per hundred cubic feet and rise from $4.16 to $7.23.
The impact fee was increased from $37.50 to $100 per plumbing fixture, dramatically
increasing the contribution expected from new connections.

The County also issued $64 million of warrants in 1984, providing $58 million for sewer
improvements -- about half of the amount recommended in the blue-ribbon report. 35

A court ruling on the County's ratemaking and borrowing authority. Some were
frustrated with the rising sewer charges. A lawsuit arose out of the 1983 sewer rate
increase and the bond issue it was to finance, based on the still-unresolved questions
about the County's authority under Amendment 73 to the Constitution of Alabama and
Act 619 of 1949. In July 1984 the Alabama Supreme Court held in favor of the County,
reaffirming the Advisory Opinion it had rendered in 1971. The people of Alabama, the
Court reiterated, have given the Jefferson County Commission the sole power to adopt
reasonable and nondiscriminatory rates for use of the Sanitary Sewer System, and the
Legislature cannot interfere with this grant of authority. Furthermore, Jefferson County
has the same authority as every other county, under the so-called "Kelly Act" of 1933, to
issue revenue bonds for the improvement of its sewer system. 36

Change in the makeup of the County Commission. A federal lawsuit was filed in
1984 challenging the at-large method of electing Commissioners, and it was settled with
a consent decree. In August 1985, the County Commission was enlarged to five
members, elected by district. Thereafter, the public improvements activities of county
government that had been supervised by one Commissioner were divided into a
Transportation Department and an Environmental Services Department, each headed by a
Commissioner.

Rate increases become more frequent in the 1990s. In June 1985, the County
Commission adopted another increase in the volume charge for sewer usage, but again
fell short of the recommendations in the blue-ribbon report. The volume charge on the
first 200 cubic feet of water usage was doubled, from $0.86 to $1.72, increasing the
average rate for the typical residential customer to $0.956 per hundred cubic feet and the
average monthly bill from $7.40 to $8.13. The blue-ribbon report had recommended that
rates be set 37 percent higher in 1985 to meet minimal requirements.

The County Commission did not follow the recommendations of the blue-ribbon report to
raise sewer rates in 1986, 1987, or 1988. By 1988, the actual volume charge was 50
percent below the level that the report had recommended. In that year, the County
Commission issued $25 million in sewer warrants, two years behind the schedule laid out
in the blue-ribbon report. For the five-year period 1983-1988, the total of bonds actually
issued fell 40 percent short of the amount recommended in the blue-ribbon report.



                                             67
Early in the decade of the 1990s, however, the County Commission began the practice of
enacting multi-year rate increases to generate funds for sewer improvements. In
November 1991, the Commission adopted its first multi-year sewer rate increase, raising
the volume charge per hundred cubic feet of water usage to $1.15 on January 1, 1992,
$1.35 on January 1, 1993, and $1.44 on January 1, 1994. Another multi-year increase
was adopted in May 1995, with the volume charge per hundred cubic feet rising to $1.58
on June 1, 1995 and $1.73 on January 1, 1996.

Rules changes increasing treatment requirements. Ironically, just when the County
Commission began to raise sewer charges to the levels envisioned in the 1983 blue-
ribbon report, in order to meet the known wastewater treatment needs of the County, the
state regulatory requirements were made much more stringent. These rules changes
called for the County to increase the level of treatment at its plants well beyond the
secondary treatment rule, and to significantly reduce wastewater bypasses during wet-
weather conditions.

        - Effluent limitations much more stringent than the secondary treatment
requirement. In March 1990, ADEM adopted new rules that dramatically increased the
level of treatment required in the wastewater treatment plants of Jefferson County. Under
these new rules, still in effect today, effluent limitations for treatment plant permits are
determined on the basis of the minimum seven-day low flow occurring once every ten
years in the receiving stream, and treatment plants must be designed using these criteria.
Allowable pollutant concentrations are based on computer modeling of the stream’s
carrying capacity, which results in limits more stringent than those of the older secondary
rule. The new standards include not only these “concentration limits” for the pollutants
in each liter of water discharged, but also “loading limits” on the total pounds of
pollutants discharged. The loading limits are calculated by applying the concentration
limits to the minimum seven-day low flow.

A major problem with this new methodology is the interaction of the calculated limits
and stream volumes. Jefferson County’s streams are subject to great seasonal
fluctuations in volume. Defining concentration limits on the basis of low-volume
conditions results in very high treatment requirements and very low loading limits on
total pounds of pollutants discharged. (In other words, the rules assume a worst-case
scenario. If, on the other hand, high-volume situations were assumed, the result would be
lowered treatment requirements and higher loading limits, due to the dilution that occurs
in such conditions.) Failure to relax the loading limits as stream flow increases beyond
the low-flow assumption creates extremely stringent quality standards.

This definitional change means that effluent from Jefferson County’s treatment plants
must meet much stiffer requirements than before. Whereas the secondary treatment rule
had created an effluent limit of 30 milligrams per liter for BOD5 and SS, the model-based
rule results in concentration limits of 3 to 15 milligrams per liter and corresponding
reductions in the total pounds of pollutants allowed to be discharged. The County was
forced to look at costly “tertiary” treatment and other options to meet these new
standards.



                                            68
The EPA was aware as early as 1984 that these kinds of problems are caused by
interactions among the various kinds of water-quality limits. In that year, it published in
the Federal Register study results showing that, with diluted flows, the interaction
between the concentration limits and the percent-removal requirement in the secondary
treatment rule can lead to much more stringent treatment of wastewater than was
intended. 37 However, by the 1990s, these concerns had not been addressed in the rules.
According to the Jefferson County Director of Environmental Services, ADEM was
willing at the time to consider permit modifications with relaxed limits during peak
flows, but “to date EPA has denied approval of all such permit modifications.” 38

        - Required reductions in bypasses. In January and February 1990, extremely
wet weather triggered numerous bypasses at treatment plants in the County wastewater
system that totaled 1.19 billion gallons. 39 This created concern at the Alabama
Department of Environmental Management (ADEM, the successor to AWIC), which
required the County to develop a program that would significantly reduce bypassing at
treatment plants and overflows from sewer lines. Implementing such a program would
require substantial expenditures to rehabilitate the lateral sewer lines owned by
municipalities as well as the trunk lines owned by the County.

The County informed mayors in January 1991 of the necessity for undertaking such a
program, of the certainty of sewer moratoriums if it were not developed, and of its plans
to initiate a sewer system evaluation survey as the first step in a sewer rehabilitation
program. 40 A consultant was hired in March 1991 to conduct the survey, 41 and the
County submitted an infiltration/inflow management plan with corrective actions in
December 1991 that, with subsequent amendments, would require $416.8 million in
expenditures to improve treatment plants and rehabilitate sewer lines. On September 2,
1993, ADEM issued an order requiring the County to implement this plan, to obtain
ADEM approval for modifications, and to report annually to ADEM on the progress of
its implementation. 42

The Cahaba River lawsuit. The early 1990s also saw the filing of a federal lawsuit that
stemmed largely from two decades of developmental conflicts in the Cahaba River basin.

As the population of the greater Birmingham area continued to grow in the 1970s, it
spread southeast toward Shelby County and into the Cahaba basin. The River supplied
80 percent of Birmingham’s water supply through Lake Purdy. This Lake, created in
1910 by impounding the Little Cahaba River below Leeds, was fed by a 55 MGD intake
on the Cahaba River. In dry weather, the Birmingham Water Works used almost all of
the water from the River, sometimes creating “near zero flow” downstream as far as 7.8
miles and leaving the River inadequate to dilute the effluent being discharged by the
Cahaba River and Patton Creek treatment plants of the Jefferson County Sanitary Sewer
System. 43

Realizing the development pressures, AWIC in 1973 reclassified the lower Cahaba for
swimming, the highest classification available under Alabama law. This had the effect of
raising the required quality of discharges into the river from sewage treatment plants and



                                            69
industrial sources. The Cahaba also was considered for inclusion in the National Wild
and Scenic Rivers System, but the size of the diversions already permitted worked against
such recognition. 44

The 1975 consultant's report for Jefferson County's water facilities (201) planning study
offered two alternatives for the River: the County could build a reservoir system on
Black Creek to enable water releases during periods when the Cahaba had low flows, or
the County's existing Cahaba River and Patton Creek plants could be upgraded to provide
tertiary treatment so that their discharges would be cleaner. County Commissioners
initially rejected both plans because of their cost. Constructing the reservoir would cost
an estimated $4.8 million and require the involvement and approval of numerous political
entities, and the cost of upgrading the two plants to the tertiary level would be nearly
three times as much. The County decided to devise a method of limiting the amount of
water that could be taken from the river, which meant challenging Birmingham’s
withdrawals. 45

The EPA recommended another long-term source of drinking water for Birmingham, but
the Water Works Board insisted that this option was not economically feasible, since it
would cost $80 to $100 million to abandon the Cahaba as a source of water. 46 In a June
1976 letter to the Birmingham Water Works Board, the EPA stated that it would not ask
that the Cahaba be abandoned as a drinking water source. 47 The County then developed
a proposal for low-flow augmentation. The plan would include building reservoirs in the
Black Creek area of St. Clair County and raising the level of Lake Purdy in Jefferson
County. The extra water would be released into the river during dry periods.

At the time, the Birmingham Water Works withdrew an average of about 50 MGD from
the river, leaving it almost dry in summer months. Future plans for the Cahaba River
sewage treatment plant called for releasing up to 16 MGD of treated waste into what at
times was a nearly dry riverbed. 48 Residents of St. Clair County opposed the Black
Creek reservoir plan because of its potential impact on development in their area.

In 1990, the County hired Hendon Engineering to study sewer alternatives for the Upper
Cahaba from Grants Mill Road to an area near Altadena Country Club, in response to
growth along Highway 280 and plans for Liberty Park and other developments near
Grants Mill Road. The report concluded that the County should provide sanitary sewers
for the area and proposed a 15-mile extension of the Cahaba River trunk sewer with a
tunnel gravity sewer.

Environmental groups disagreed. The Sierra Club took the position that the sewer line
would invite high-density development in the area. The Alabama Conservancy suggested
the need for an environmental impact statement. Later, the Cahaba River Society
challenged the report’s assumptions that septic tanks and “package” sewer plants were
less reliable and therefore undesirable, and pointed out that they were less costly. The
County Department of Environmental Services, on the other hand, reasoned that
development projects were already planned, that more development was inevitable, and




                                           70
that without a sewer line developers would make use of less reliable "package" treatment
plants or septic tanks, which would lead to environmental damage for the River. 49

In May 1993, ADEM placed a moratorium on new sewer connections to Jefferson
County’s Leeds treatment plant because of excessive pollutants discharged into the Little
Cahaba River during the previous winter. 50 Bids on plant improvements were awarded in
August 1993, 51 and construction of the new Norman R. Skinner Wastewater Treatment
Plant was complete in April 1995.

In October 1993, the EPA demanded an accounting from Jefferson County for all
unpermitted discharges of pollutants from its wastewater treatment plants since 1988.
The request was unusual in that it bypassed ADEM, which (as noted above, on pages 68-
69) had initiated its own enforcement proceedings to correct the same problem. 52 EPA
officials stated that the Agency had concerns with sewer overflows in Jefferson County
and with ADEM’s proposed order, and that the Agency had been informed that a federal
lawsuit would be filed in the controversy. 53

In November 1993, a federal lawsuit was filed by three citizens against the Jefferson
County Commission for violating the Clean Water Act. The Cahaba River Society
intervened in the suit in March 1994, and the EPA filed its own complaint in December
1994. The lawsuits, which were combined into one action, alleged that the County
discharged pollutants into the Cahaba and Black Warrior Rivers, and their tributaries,
without the required permits, and that it violated the terms of the permits for its treatment
plants. The plaintiffs sought to stop the County from operating its sewage treatment
system in violation of federal law. They also asked that the County be fined for its
violations and estimated the total at over $100 million. 54

The permit violations for which the County could be fined up to $25,000 per day by EPA
were of two types: (1) violations of the water quality standards contained in the permits
for the County’s treatment plants, and (2) violations of the procedural rules governing
permits. One of these procedural rules is that permit reissuance must be requested at least
180 days in advance of the expiration of a current permit, and Jefferson County had not
met this requirement in a number of instances, with each day’s tardiness potentially
subject to the same $25,000 penalty that would apply to a pollution-related violation. 55

Noting that the County had admitted that its pollutant discharges exceeded the permitted
levels in a number of instances, the judge in January 1995 found for the plaintiffs and
ordered the County and the plaintiffs to present an agreed-upon plan to end the problem
of sewage overflows, particularly in periods of heavy rain, or two separate plans that
would leave the decision to him. 56

Estimates by the County at the time put the cost of reducing rainwater leakage into sewer
pipes by 30 to 35 percent at $600 million, which would require a doubling of sewer rates
from an average of $15 a month to $30. However, the plaintiffs favored a reduction of
rainwater infiltration by 70 to 80 percent, which the County estimated would run $1.2
billion and require quadrupling sewer rates to $60 a month. The Cahaba River Society



                                             71
estimated that the ruling would require no rate increases above those already planned by
the County. 57

In April 1995 an informal consent agreement was reached between the County and
plaintiffs. The County was to implement a ten-year program to end sewage bypassing.
The EPA could levy a connection moratorium against any County treatment plant that
continued to bypass in the final phase of the plan, around 2003. 58 In May 1995 County
officials proposed spending $30 million for a Greenway Parks and Environmental
Preserve System rather than paying large monetary penalties. The land would act as a
buffer zone, helping to protect the waterways and wildlife in the county. 59 The County
also presented its plan to create a single, comprehensive countywide sewer system to
mayors or representatives from 19 cities. A majority of mayors present at the meeting
informally supported the program, which involved a County takeover of responsibility for
the rehabilitation and maintenance of all sewer lines feeding into the County’s main
sewer trunk lines. Under the unified sewer system, the County would also be allowed to
decide what kind of sewers went into the ground, but officials promised that this
authority would not be used to inhibit the growth of municipalities or to stop them from
placing sewers where they desired. The County estimated that 60 percent of the sewer
system’s problems originated in lines owned by municipalities. 60

On December 9, 1996 the final Consent Decree, which settled the lawsuits, was entered
in U.S. District Court. This brought to a close a 23-year period of rapid change and
frequent conflict in the development of the Sanitary Sewer System. During this period
the issues of economic development, environmental protection, and financial
responsibility for the System were debated and ultimately resolved through court-ordered
negotiations that set the stage for a massive improvement plan which would begin to be
implemented in 1997. The terms of the Decree and its implementation are discussed in
the next chapter.

System expansion and upgrades, 1973-1996. 61 The County’s expenditures on sewer
and plant improvements during this period, shown in Table 7-1, were almost twenty
times higher than in the previous period. Before 1973, the System had three relatively
small secondary plants and five primary plants. During this period, $280.5 million was
invested to upgrade the primary plants to provide secondary treatment and dramatically
increase the design capacities of plants in the System. Table 7-2 shows average daily
plant capacities in 1996, at the end of the period. Another $294.2 million was invested in
extending and upgrading sewer lines. The breakdown of these expenditures by basin was
as follows:




                                           72
               TABLE 7-1                                     TABLE 7-2

          Jefferson County                                Jefferson County
    Sewer Improvement Contracts                  Treatment Plant Average Capacity
              1973-1996                            in Millions of Gallons Per Day
                                                                 1996
  Cahaba River Basin      $ 181,244,416
  Cane Creek Basin            2,431,595
                                                     Cahaba River         12.0
  Five Mile Creek Basin      65,538,935
                                                     Five Mile Creek      20.0
  Prudes Creek Basin          6,386,631
                                                     Leeds                 5.0
  Shades Creek Basin         77,236,492
  Turkey Creek Basin         18,742,840
                                                     Prudes Creek          0.6
  Valley Creek Basin        118,442,955              Trussville            4.5
  Village Creek Basin       104,653,446              Turkey Creek          2.0
                                                     Valley Creek         65.0
  Total                   $ 574,677,309              Village Creek        60.0
                                                     Warrior               0.1

                                                     Total               169.2


        - Cahaba Basin. Expenditures in this basin during the period 1973-1996 totaled
$181.2 million. The Little Shades Creek sewer was built in the early 1970s. The Cahaba
River plant was upgraded in the 1980s and again in the early 1990s; total expenditures
were $53.8 million, and the upgraded plant has an average capacity of 12 MGD. The
Cahaba trunk sewer was extended and rehabilitated from 1986 to 1996 at a cost of $24.9
million. The County spent $15.5 million on the Leeds sewers and plant, which was
upgraded to 5 MGD. During the 1980s, the Patton Creek transfer and pump station were
constructed, and the Patton Creek trunk sewer was replaced in the 1990s; total costs were
$35.1 million. Some $5.1 million was spent in the 1990s on the Riverchase sewer. The
Trussville sewers and treatment plant were upgraded at a cost of $30.1 million, with the
plant capacity now increased to 1.2 MGD. The Bluff Park tunnel was constructed in
1994 at a cost of $8.4 million. About $6.5 million was invested in smaller sewer line
projects.

        - Valley Creek Basin. A total of $124.5 million was spent in this basin during
the period 1973-1996. The largest expenditures, $69.8 million, were for the Valley Creek
plant, which was enlarged to 35 MGD average capacity in 1976 and to 65 MGD in the
1980s. Another $41.6 million was spent on the Lower Valley Creek interceptor and
replacements on the old Valley Creek trunk line. Other projects totaling $15.5 million
included the Dolomite sewer, Morgan-Greenwood sewer, South Bessemer sewer,
Pleasant Grove sewer, Hueytown sewer, Sand Ridge Sewer, and Fairfield replacement
sewer.

        - Village Creek Basin. A total of $100.6 million was spent in this basin during
the period 1973-1996. Two-thirds of this ($67.5 million) was invested in the Village
Creek plant, which was enlarged to 40 MGD average capacity in 1975 and to 60 MGD in
the 1990s. The County spent $21.0 million on replacement and other work on the Village
Creek trunk line, and $4.8 million on the transfer line from upper Valley Creek. Another


                                           73
$7.4 million was spent on smaller projects, including the Corbet Branch trunk and the
Second Creek trunk.

        - Shades Creek Basin. A total of $77.2 million was spent in this basin during the
period 1973-1996. In the 1970s and early 1980s, $8.1 million was spent on the Shades
Valley sewer. The Shades Valley transfer line, transporting effluent from this basin to
Valley Creek, was completed in 1985 at a cost of $27.4 million. The Al Seier Road
pump station and related facilities were completed in 1993 for $9.1 million. The Oxmoor
trunk line was built in the early 1990s at a cost of $9.3 million. Work on the Scott’s
branch pretreatment facility, on the site of the old Shades Valley plant, totaled $17.7
million in the early 1990s. About $5.6 million was spent in this basin on smaller
projects, including the Watkins Branch replacement sewer, Furnace Branch trunk sewer,
and East Irondale trunk sewer.

        - Five Mile Creek Basin. A total of $65.5 million was spent in this basin during
the period 1973-1996. A new Five Mile Creek plant was built in 1974, replacing the old
Boyles plant; a trunk line to the new plant also was built during the 1970s, and the plant
was upgraded in 1990 to 20 MGD average capacity. These improvements cost $38.7
million. The Black Creek sewer was built in the 1970s at a cost of $4.4 million. The
Gardendale sewer was completed in the 1990s at a cost of $8.6 million. The Newfound
Creek pump station and sewers were built in 1995 at a cost of $5.8 million. Other
improvements in this basin, totaling $8.2 million, included the Boyles trunk replacement,
North Smithfield trunk outfall sewer, Bridlewood sewer, and Robinwood sewer, among
other projects.

         - Turkey Creek Basin. Expenditures in this basin during the period 1973-1996
totaled $18.7 million. The Turkey Creek plant was enlarged to handle an average flow of
2 MGD in 1981 and again to 4 MGD in 1996. Total expenditures on the plant during the
period were $7.0 million. In addition the County spent $8.4 million in the early 1990s on
the Turkey Creek trunk sewer and smaller amounts during the period on other sewer lines
in this basin.

        - Prudes Creek Basin. Construction of the Prudes Creek treatment plant and
sewer was undertaken in 1986 at a cost of $4.3 million, with completion in 1988. The
plant has an average capacity of 0.6 MGD.

       - Cane Creek Basin. Construction of the Warrior (Cane Creek) treatment plant
and sewer was undertaken in 1987 and completed the next year, with improvements in
1995; the total cost was $2.4 million. The plant serves the City of Warrior and has an
average capacity of 0.1 MGD.

Staffing and organizational development during the period. R.D. Erwin became
Sanitary Engineer in 1972, the last person to occupy this position. Chriss Doss became
Commissioner of Public Works in 1975, and was succeeded in this responsibility by Ray
Moore in 1983. In 1985 the number of County Commissioners increased from three to
five, and thereafter the Public Works Department was divided into two Departments,



                                            74
Roads and Transportation, and Environmental Services. Jack Swann was named Director
of Environmental Services, in effect succeeding to the position that for so many years had
been filled by the Sanitary Engineer. Following the election of 1986, Chris McNair
became Commissioner of Environmental Services and remained throughout the rest of
this period.

Sanitary System employment increased from about 200 in 1973 to 430 in 1996, 62 and the
organization began to assume its current form as units were created to focus on specific
tasks. In 1980, the Barton Laboratory became a separate administrative unit, and two
years later it absorbed the industrial pretreatment facility to become the Barton
Lab/Industrial Pretreatment Division. In 1987, the increasing size and complexity of
plant maintenance activities led to creation of three general-purpose maintenance shops
plus an electrical shop and an instrument shop. Table 7-3 shows a detailed breakdown of
employees by organizational unit in 1995.

                                        TABLE 7-3

                            Sanitary System Employment, 1995

                      Administration                              26
                      Maintenance & Construction                 101
                      Barton Lab/Industrial Pretreatment          21
                      Wastewater Treatment Plants:
                         Village Creek                            58
                         Valley Creek                             71
                         Five Mile Creek                          32
                         Cahaba River                             33
                         Turkey Creek                              7
                         Leeds                                    10
                         Trussville                                7
                         Pump Stations                            18
                         Maintenance Shops                        23
                                                                 407

Sewer system finances during the period. Sewer charges were increased nine times
during the period 1973-1996, rising from $0.20 to $1.73 per hundred cubic feet of water
usage. These rate increases had been politically difficult in the early years, but it became
clear in the late 1970s that sewer improvements were necessary to avoid sewer
moratoriums, and that neither the federal nor the state government was going to
underwrite the cost. The County Commission adopted three rate changes in the 1980s
and a multi-year increase in 1991 that began the practice of annual rate increases. Table
7-4 shows the dramatic growth in revenue from sewer charges during the period. The
sewer property tax rate increased in 1978 from 0.5 to 0.7 mills, to compensate for a
constitutional change in property assessment ratios. On the spending side, debt service
became a significant expense as the County began to borrow regularly to meet continuing
requirements for sewer improvements.




                                             75
                                                                  Table 7-4

                                     Jefferson County Sewer System Finances, 1976-1995

                                         1976                   1980                 1985                  1990                  1995
Revenues

Property Tax                        $     687,898         $     1,019,510      $     1,405,450       $     2,193,396         $    2,695,800
Sewer Charges                           3,696,764               7,472,800           23,989,096            24,833,817             39,587,914
Impact Fees                                                       727,200            2,191,588             3,061,100              6,722,187
Sales Tax                               2,671,252
Interest                                  471,102                579,820               940,869             2,755,012              1,058,270
Other                                     109,121                295,370                13,823               435,980                489,717

Total                               $ 7,636,137           $ 10,094,700            $ 28,540,825       $    33,279,305         $   50,553,888

Operating Expenditures

Administration                            366,830                 634,081              879,580             1,067,901              1,732,400
Plant Operations                        1,984,000               4,106,427            7,319,570             9,637,170             29,589,310
Engineering & Construction              1,230,420               1,844,591            2,575,840             3,359,145              4,292,369
Barton Lab                               N/A                      592,290              419,890               673,622                965,876
Debt Service                            1,609,693                N/A                 2,607,724             9,419,871             26,707,339

Total                                     N/A                    N/A           $ 13,802,604           $   24,157,709         $   63,287,294

Sources:
Official Statement, $10,000,000, Jefferson County Alabama Sanitary Sewer Construction Warrants, 1977A Series, July 1, 1997
Jefferson County Commission Annual Budget, October 1, 1975 - September 30, 1976
Report of the Wastewater Facilities Development Committee, "Operation Progress"
Official Statement, $38,485,000, Jefferson County, Alabama , General Obligation Tax Pledge Warrants, 1985 Series B, December 1, 1985
Jefferson County Alabama, Annual Budget, 1985-86
Jefferson County Alabama, Annual Budget, 1990-91
Official Statement, $296,395,000, Jefferson County, Alabama Sewer Revenue Warrants, Series 1997-D
Jefferson County, Alabama, Official Operating Budget, 1995-96



Figure 8, below, shows the major components of the Jefferson County Sanitary Sewer
System as they existed in 1996.




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    FIGURE 8. MAJOR COMPONENTS OF THE SANITARY SEWER SYSTEM IN 1996

                                       8. WARRIOR LINES & PLANT                                                  7. TRUSSVILLE
                    5. TURKEY CREEK LINES & PLANT                                       8                        LINES & PLANT
                                                                         RK
                                                                     T FO
                                                               S                       TU
               3. FIVE MILE CREEK LINES & PLANT
                                                             CU                          RK
                                                                                           EY
                                                           LO                                   CR
                                                                                                  .
                                                                                                       5
          9. PRUDES CREEK LINES & PLANT                   FIV
                                                             E                                           I   N
                                                                 MI
                                                                    LE                                 TA
                                                                         CR                          UN
                                                                           .                       MO
                             ER                           PRUDES CR.                          ND
                           IV                                                               SA
                         R                          VIL        9                                                     7
                     R                                 LAG                         3
                    O                                     EC
                  RI                                        R.                 1                                         6
                AR
               W
                                                                                                                     ER
          CK                  VA                                              Y                               IV
        LA                      LL                                          LE                            AR
      B                           EY
                                       CR                              VAL        IN                   HAB
                                         .                          ES         TA                  CA
                                                   2           JON        O UN
                                                                        M                          6. LEEDS LINES & PLANT
                                                                     ED EY
                                                                    R L
                                                                      L               4
                                              T.




                                                                    VA                     1. VILLAGE CREEK LINES &
                                             M
                                         CK




                                                                  S                           PLANT
                                                               DE
                                        RO




                                                                                 N
                                                          S HA                 AI      4. CAHABA RIVER LINES & PLANT
                                                                             T
                                                                           UN
                                                            CR.          O
                                                                       M
                                                         ES          S
                                                       AD        ADE
                                                     SH       SH         2. VALLEY CREEK LINES & PLANT




1
  Title 40, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 133.102; history cited in Federal Register, Vol. 48, No.
222, page 52229. Fecal coliform limits were included in the original regulation but removed soon
thereafter because of technical concerns.
2
  Environmental Protection Agency, “Clean Water Act,” http://www.epa.gov/. Claudia Copeland, “Clean
Water Act: A Summary of the Law,” CRS Issue Brief for Congress, National Council for Science and the
Environment, http://www.cnie.org/.
3
  Jefferson County Environmental Services Department, Project List; Report of the Wastewater Facilities
Development Committee, Operation Progress, April 1983.
4
  The plant improvement costs in these bullets are bid awards from the Jefferson County Environmental
Services Department Project List. Final project costs, not available in systematic form, are likely to differ
somewhat, due to contract amendments and final settlements.
5
  Official Statement, $10,000,000 Jefferson County, Alabama Sanitary Sewer Construction Warrants,
1977A, July 1, 1977.
6
  Black, Crow and Eidsness, Birmingham Metropolitan Area Wastewater Facilities Plan, August 1975.
7
  Robert Stubbs, Inc., Comprehensive Wastewater Rate Analysis, 1976.
8
  Official Statement, $10,000,000 Jefferson County, Alabama Sanitary Sewer Construction Warrants,
1977A, July 1, 1977.
9
  “Sewage problem could stop construction in four cities,” The Birmingham News, September 19, 1974.
10
   “Sewer moratorium is only partial answer,” The Birmingham Post-Herald, September 15, 1975.
11
   “Sewer moratorium extended,” The Birmingham Post-Herald, February 14, 1978. “Local officials not
happy with moratorium extension,” The Shades Valley Sun, March 1, 1978.




                                                                     77
12
   “Shades Valley sewer connection ban lifted.” The Birmingham Post-Herald, October 24, 1978. “Sewer
ban to continue,” The Birmingham Post-Herald, November 15, 1978.
13
   “Shades Creek sewer tie-ons authorized,” The Birmingham Post-Herald, January 24, 1979. “Sewer
moratorium to be partially lifted,” The Birmingham News, January 24, 1979. “Limited Shades Creek
sewer tie-ons offered,” The Birmingham Post-Herald, January 26. 1979.
14
   Report of the Wastewater Facilities Development Committee, Operation Progress. “Cahaba sewage
pipeline ok ,” The Birmingham Post Herald, March 29, 1978; “Citizens group backs program to replenish
Cahaba Water,” The Birmingham Post Herald, April 7, 1978.
15
   “Construction over Shades Mtn. banned,” The Birmingham Post-Herald, February 11, 1976.
16
   Report of the Wastewater Facilities Development Committee, Operation Progress.
17
   “Cahaba waste issue starts EPA-AWIC feud,” The Birmingham Reporter, September 15, 1977.
18
   “Delegation seeks relief from limit on Cahaba Basin sewage output,” The Birmingham News, September
18, 1977; “Letters are pouring in concerning EPA Cahaba River sewage proposals,” The Shades Valley
Sun, September 21, 1977; “Cahaba sewage decision promised in 20 days,” The Birmingham News,
September 22, 1977.
19
   “Brewster Valley building curbed,” The Birmingham Post-Herald, June 22, 1977.
20
   “Turkey Creek closed to sewer tie-ons,” The Birmingham Post-Herald, May 3, 1978.
21
   “That’s not the smell of springtime around Hickory Hills,” The Birmingham News, May 17, 1978.
22
   Report of the Wastewater Facilities Development Committee, Operation Progress.
23
   “Septic tank water seepage could lead to health hazard for Irondale homes,” The Birmingham News,
February 8, 1980.
24
   “Sewer moratorium might not mean doom to builders,” The Birmingham News, February 7, 1979.
25
   “County defends Shelby sewer aid,” The Birmingham Post-Herald, February 4, 1977.
26
   Jefferson County v. City of Leeds, et al., 675 So. 2d 353.
27
   Official Statement, $10,000,000 Jefferson County, Alabama Sanitary Sewer Construction Warrants,
1977A Series, July 1, 1977.
28
   “Sewer problems abound in County,” The Birmingham Post-Herald, September 1, 1981.
29
   "Sewer tie-on moratorium puts pinch in business pocketbooks," The Birmingham News, May 17, 1981;
"Sewer costs, rules mean moratorium," The Birmingham News, February 11, 1982.
30
   Report of the Wastewater Facilities Development Committee, Operation Progress.
31
   “Two Jeffco sewage plants rated ″best″”, The Birmingham News, August 15, 1979.
32
   Confirmed by telephone conversation with Doyle Grimes, plant supervisor, who checked the plaques on
the wall, in December 2001.
33
   “Certainty of sewers: Cost rising,” The Birmingham News, February 12, 1982.
34
   Report of the Wastewater Facilities Development Committee, Operation Progress .
35
   Preliminary Placement Memorandum, $50,000,000 Jefferson County, Alabama Variable Rate Demand
Sewer Revenue Warrants, Series 1984. $14,658,492.82 General Obligation Special Tax Pledge Warrants,
1984 Series B, March 14, 1984. In the latter issue, $8,221,232 was for additions and improvements to the
sanitary system.
36
   Frances E. Shell, et al. v. Jefferson County, 454 So. 2d 1331. The Kelly Act is found at Section 11-81-
160, Code of Alabama of 1975.
37
   Federal Register, vol. 49, No. 184, September 20, 1984, beginning at page 37010.
38
   “Attachment 1” to a letter from Jack Swann to the Jefferson County Commission, dated May 29, 1996.
39
   Letter from Truman Green, Chief of the Municipal Branch, Water Division, ADEM, to Jack W. Swann,
Director of Environmental Services, Jefferson County, dated March 12, 1990.
40
   Letter from Commissioner Chris McNair to mayors, dated January 22, 1991.
41
   Letter from Jack W. Swann, Director of Environmental Services, to Truman Green, Chief of Municipal
Branch, Water Division, ADEM, dated March 27, 1991.
42
   Adminnistrative Order No. 93-100-WP, ADEM.
43
   Alabama Water Improvement Commission, Water Quality Management Plan, Cahaba River Basin,
July 1974, page IV- 7.
44
   “The Cahaba’s Fate: Sewer or scenic river?” The Birmingham News, December 14, 1975.
45
   Ibid. “Wastewater facilities improvement aired,” The Birmingham Post-Herald, May 13, 1975.
46
   “The Cahaba’s Fate: Sewer or scenic river?” The Birmingham News, December, 14, 1975.
47
   “Lab reports on water study in Valley, other area creeks,” The Birmingham Post Herald, June 18, 1976.


                                                   78
48
    “Citizens group backs program to replenish Cahaba water,” The Birmingham Post-Herald, April 7,
1978.
49
   "Groups douse county's river sewer plan," Birmingham Post-Herald, December 13, 1990; Cahaba River
Society, “Comments of the Cahaba River Society on the Preliminary Engineering Report: Sewer
Alternatives for the Cahaba River Area (Altadena to Grants Mill Road), as Prepared for Jefferson County
by Hendon Engineering Associates,” July 18, 1992.
50
    “ADEM halts sewer hookups in Leeds after pollutants rise,” The Birmingham News, May 29, 1993.
51
    “Possible solutions to wastewater problems,” The Birmingham News, August 18, 1993.
52
    “Sewage in streams – how did it get there?” The Birmingham News, November 4, 1993; “ADEM says
EPA request out of line,” The Birmingham News, December 9, 1993.
53
    “EPA says lawsuit led to Jefferson wastewater probe,” The Birmingham News, December 23, 1993.
54
    As stated in the Proposed Consent Decree lodged with the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Alabama, Southern Division, October 21, 1996; pages 5-7.
55
    Letter from Commissioner Chris McNair to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management,
dated June 16, 1995, requesting that ADEM modify its requirements to permit exceptions to the 180-day
cutoff.
56
    “Judge bans dumping sewage in Cahaba,” The Birmingham News, January 21, 1995; “Residents look to
ruling as key to cleaner water,” The Birmingham News, January 22, 1995.
57
    “Figuring sewer costs,” The Birmingham Post-Herald, March 20, 1995; “Sewer win warms Cahaba
River meet,” The Birmingham News, January 29, 1995.
58
    “County waste accord OK’d,” The Birmingham Post-Herald, April 18, 1995.
59
    “County offers a trade: Parks for sewer time,” The Birmingham Post-Herald, May 12, 1995. “McNair
touts sewer plan, hits Cahaba advocates’ suit,” The Birmingham News, May 21, 1995.
60
    “Jeffco sewer plan appeals to mayors,” The Birmingham News, May 23, 1995.
61
    Jefferson County Department of Environmental Services, Project List.
62
    This figure excludes the 75 employees in the Solid Waste Division in 1996, since that division is not
involved with the Sanitary System.




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