From staff reports
TRUSSVILLE – In 2013, the Magnolia Place Homeowner’s Association (MPHOA) detention pond in Trussville suddenly filled to overflowing. An investigation revealed that the primary cause was storm water and silt being diverted from Birmingham’s Eastern Area Landfill, which is adjacent to the pond.
On May 8, with 96 percent of the homeowners approving, Attorney Bart Slawson filed a suit on behalf of the MPHOA in the Jefferson County Circuit Court. With estimates reaching as high as $73,000, the MPHOA is attempting to get Birmingham to repair the damages the Landfill did to their detention pond.
On June 12, Birmingham responded to the lawsuit by claiming that any damages were the result of the HOA’s “willful, wanton, or negligent conduct,” and that the HOA is not entitled to recover damages, even if Birmingham was negligent.
Since 2012, MPHOA has filed numerous complaints against the Landfill with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM), charging them with failing to cover the trash, as the law requires, and failing to adequately control their storm water.
ADEM issued a Consent Decree and fine from ADEM in 2014 for the uncovered trash. The storm water complaints are still pending.
The law requires that every landfill must control the amounts of sediment and contaminants that go downstream. ADEM records show that Birmingham has had problems meeting these limits since at least 2007.
One of Birmingham’s outflow measuring points (DSN 003) is at the exit flow of their retention pond into Stinking Creek after it flows through the HOA pond.
Google Earth, and the hundreds of photographs taken by the HOA President, show that the HOA’s 1.7 acre pond worked normally until the landfill apparently cut trenches to divert 20 percent to 50 percent of the 68 acres served by DSN 003 through this pond, effectively reducing the amount of sediment they had to report.
Unfortunately for the HOA, their detention pond worked as designed and collected the silt, which now needs to be removed.
Photographs serve as proof that the landfill has dumped oil in the Pinchgut Creek, which is part of the Cahaba River Basin.
MPHOA President Dan Bayse claims that his attempts to contact city leaders about landfill issues have been ignored for over two years. Even before hiring the attorney, attempts to contact City Council Representative Kim Rafferty and Mayor Bell failed.
Rafferty said: “If you meet with me to converse, it could taint the case.”
“We’re just trying to put it back like it was designed and have already spent thousands,” said Bayse. “Birmingham has 27 attorneys on payroll. We pay by the hour. It is a shame that Birmingham requires us to use the legal process to make a claim or even talk with us.”