The Year of Moving Forward

The Year of Moving Forward
At our 4 person wedding reception in DC

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bessemer Water is All Wet

Twice I have brought up Bessemer’s changing water service, reporting that GUSC, the Governmental Utilities Services Corp., would be buying out Covanta Energy’s contract to manage the city’s water plant.

Oops. The mayor vetoed that decision. The mayor doesn’t want GUSC to manage the water. He wants it to be a city department. The council attempted to override the veto, with Albert Soles, who voted in favor of GUSC on June 5, deciding to abstain, and Earl Cochran, who abstained on June 5, voting to support the mayor. The vote ended as a 3-3 tie, so the veto was not overridden.

The attorney for GUSC, Shan Paden says it’s his opinion that the council’s original vote was not subject to veto. I have a feeling this is not over.

But I got to thinking (uh-oh). What is more difficult to understand, the hydrologic cycle or the Bessemer Utilities water cycle?

The hydrologic cycle is science and nature and is logical. The Bessemer water cycle is not logical and there is nothing natural about it.

Water on our planet is in continuous motion between the rivers and lakes and oceans (97% of the world’s water is salty). Of the 3 % that is freshwater, 2/3 of it is locked in the Arctic and Antarctic ice caps. So the available fresh water, that we all depend on, makes up less than 1% of the planet’s water.

The hydrologic cycle explains the movement of water between the atmosphere and earth’s surface (precipitation) and back again (evaporation and transpiration), and along the surface and below (river flow, groundwater movement). It’s actually pretty simple and can be diagramed out with numbers showing how many cubic miles are in which compartments and how much moves on a yearly basis.

The Bessemer water system came to be in 1990, with the creation of GUSC, which then allowed Bessemer to build its own water plant and break away from Birmingham. Bessemer water service buys its water from GUSC. GUSC pays Covanta ($166,000 per month) to manage the water plant. Covanta is an energy company, who claims to be a leader in waste to energy technology. Covanta filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2002. Covanta wants out of the water business. The mayor wants the city to operate its own water plant or pay GUSC to operate it. Wait, I thought he did not want GUSC to operate it. Oh well.

Consumers don’t pay GUSC, we don’t pay the City of Bessemer, and we don’t pay Bessemer Water. We pay Bessemer Utilities for water. The little handbook that they give you says that our water is distributed by “the Water Department.” Who is that?

Now here is the kicker. I have been boasting about our water source and the mayor has been doing the same. The Bessemer Utilities Consumer Handbook that I have says the water “is purchased from the Birmingham Water Works.” That must be outdated ( I received it 2000), because the 2006 Bessemer Water Service Water Quality Report states “Bessemer Water Services purchases their water from Covanta Water Systems.” But didn’t I just say that Bessemer Water Service buys their water from GUSC. That is what the Birmingham News says. So Covanta doesn’t just “manage” the water plant, they “own” the water? No wonder the Mayor wants the city to control it.

After all, water scarcity is “one of the most critical health threats to human society today,” according to Environmental Health edited by Howard Frumkin. I am not going to go into it right here, but someday I may address the issue of the Ogallala aquifer, which lies underneath much of 8 states from South Dakota to Texas, and provides about 30% of all groundwater used for irrigation in the U. S. It contains “fossil water” that has been underground for thousands of years. We are using it too much, too fast, it is not replenishing itself, and when it’s gone (20 to 30 years for some areas), see what happens to agriculture in the Midwest.

Anyway, just agree that the Bessemer Water System is much more complex than the hydrologic cycle.

You might hear more about water scarcity from me. Sometimes it is natural, sometimes it is political, sometimes it is the result of war. It is always serious.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

maybe this is a little harsh, but do the elderly people that sit on the city council (referring to the ones that have been in there position for more than one term, and will not give up that seat without a fight) really understand? why these so call people are looking everywhere for answers regarding everything, maybe they would like to apply some of that time and energy in addition to money to the BESSEMER CITY SCHOOLS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!