Birmingham Water Works makes money on only 49% of the water it pumps

Revelation comes during a busy Wednesday meeting
BWW makes money on only 49% of the water it pumps
Published: Mar. 8, 2023 at 5:24 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The Birmingham Water Works Board revealed Wednesday that the utility is making money on less than half of the water it pumps, meaning customers are essentially paying the utility to pump two gallons of water for every one gallon delivered to your home or business.

In figures released during an annual review presentation, BWWB staff revealed the utility pumped 47.795 billion gallons of water in 2022, but only sold 23.361 billion gallons. That means the company only sold 49% of the water it pumped, leaving 51% unsold. Where is that water going? The BWWB has more than 600 miles of galvanized steel pipe, some almost 100 years old, that’s responsible for nearly 2/3 of its leaks. But the BWWB only replaced 15 miles of this leakiest pipe in 2022, and at that rate it would take decades to replace all of the galvanized steel pipe alone.

The utility today also revealed it’s been swamped by customer calls since it announced it would resume disconnecting overdue accounts on February 15. The BWWB call center averages around 25,000 calls during a normal month, but received around 114,000 calls in February alone, with more than 25,000 in 1 day on February 14, hours before the disconnection process began.

The BWWB says it’s disconnected 1157 overdue accounts since then, and reconnected 279. But the number of overdue accounts has dropped from around 27,000 at the end of January to around 23,000 at the beginning of March, and the amount of money owed in delinquent accounts has dropped from $21.9 million to $19 million.

The board also voted Wednesday to end its agreement with law firm Environmental Law Group, the attorneys who filed a lawsuit claiming several chemical companies are liable for manufacturing PFAS chemicals the suit claims are contaminating BWWB water source. Now the board is asking its attorneys to move as quickly as possible to dismiss the lawsuit.

The BWW general manager today read a statement assuring customers that your water is safe and not contaminated, in spite of the claims made in this lawsuit.

This comes a day after we reported the contract that gave these attorneys permission to file this suit was changed between the time the board voted on it and when the water works staff signed it.

That prompted the board’s vice chairman to tell us yesterday he believes some board members are more concerned with furthering their own agenda than doing what’s in the best interest of the utility.

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