Federal probe continues into Jefferson County sewers

By Alan Collins

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Jefferson County Commissioners said Tuesday they are continuing to cooperate with a federal investigation over sewage inflows, but said it may take legal action if the probe is based on false information.

Jefferson County agreed to a federal consent decree to improve its sewer system and stop sewage overflows.

"We have 31-hundred miles... we are going to have overflows," Jim Carns, Jefferson Co. Commissioner, said. "The national standard is 16 overflows per 100 miles."

Last week, EPA special agents served a subpoena and began seizing records about sewage overflows. One special agent told FOX6 News this was a criminal investigation into the violation of the clean water act.

Some county officials believe the probe is the results of a county employee acting as a whistleblower.

"If it's a whistle blower over bad things that's fine, but if it's falsified information, that's a different ballgame," Carns said.

Carns said if the probe is based on the false information the county legal department may act.

Jefferson County Commissioners are worried about the impact of the investigation.

"We are under the eye of the federal government," said Bettye Fine Collins, Jefferson County Commission President. "We will continue to be be."

"Whatever they are looking for, they will get the records for whatever they are looking for," George Bowman, Jefferson Co. Commissioner said. "We are still saddled with taking care of debt."

Carns is also worried about taking care of the county three billion dollar sewer debt. The commissioner said this federal investigation will not help.

"This is not good," Carns said. "It will hurt negotiations in New York. It's not coming from the top. There is no incentive to do that."

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