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Oxford adopts new wastewater regulations after legal settlement

OXFORD — The City Council on Tuesday adopted regulations for water from non-domestic users treated at the Tull C. Allen Wastewater Treatment Plant. 

The regulations come after the settlement in February of a lawsuit against the city filed by the Alabama Attorney General’s office and the state Department of Environmental Management. Coosa Riverkeeper, a Birmingham-based nonprofit environmental watchdog group, joined the lawsuit. The group had previously threatened litigation after claiming the Oxford Water Works & Sewer Board had violated the Clean Water Act more than 800 times in the three years leading up to 2016. 

Council President Chris Spurlin confirmed after the City Council’s Tuesday night meeting that the regulations were adopted to address conditions of the settlement. He said that specifics, including what has changed from prior standards and whether the Oxford water board will need tobeef up its labor force to enforce the regulations, were unknown to him. 

“They’re an entirely separate body,” Spurlin explained. 

He said the ordinance would, however, give the water board authority to investigate and stop the dumping of pollutants into local waters. 

The ordinance as written says the water board will carry out inspections, surveillance and monitoring, and enforce compliance with the ordinance. 

Attempts to reach Wayne Livingston, manager of the Oxford water board, were unsuccessful Tuesday. 

According to the lawsuit settlement, filed in Talladega County Circuit Court, Oxford’s water board was required to fund an engineering analysis by an independent engineering firm and implement plant improvements recommended in the report. Those changes include infrastructure, operations and maintenance upgrades, including the repair of leaky pipes and replacing force mains, older manholes, replacing and automating the disinfecting system, installing a new mobile monitoring system and software and undergoing an audit of plant sampling procedures. 

The reference to non-domestic users may stem from 2017 reports that Kronospan, an international fiberboard producer based in Oxford, had noncompliance issues with wastewater regulations. 

ADEM reported in March that year that the company had alternated between sending wastewater either too acidic or too alkaline, which can affect microorganisms in the water, to the treatment plant. 

Three other Calhoun County businesses — Southern Tool and Alaplate, of Oxford, and Parker Hannifin Corp in Jacksonville — were included in that report, though they were cited for not filing their own scheduled reports with ADEM. 

During its meeting, the City Council also: 

— Cancelled the July 23 meeting in lieu of a citywide vote on Sunday alcohol sales. The meeting has been rescheduled for July 29 at 10 a.m. at City Hall. 

— Authorized a payment of $10,200 to Calhoun County for election services in the aforementioned citywide vote. The agreement includes election custodial services and equipment. 

— Appointed election officials to work as clerks along with election inspectors during the vote. The number of workers at each of the seven locations were irregular; City Clerk Alan Atkinson said there had been some locations where securing volunteers had been difficult. No location had fewer than the minimum required staffers, he said. Each worker will be paid $175 for the day. 

— Renamed the city beautification board to Keep Oxford Beautiful, and issued a proclamation that the city wished to become an affiliate of Keep Alabama Beautiful. The council discussed membership with Keep America Beautiful, but the $1,000 application fee will need to be approved before the application can be filed. 

— Reappointed Jimmy Ogburn to the Civil Service Board, Billy Grizzard to the Regional Medical Center Board, and Michael Watts to the Commercial Development Authority. 

— Granted an additional holiday for city employees on July 5. 

— Authorized an agreement with Kimberly Appraisal. 

— Authorized a survey by CDG Engineers and Associates for a 32-acre plot between Leon Smith Parkway and Choccolocco Park at a cost of $31,300. The survey includes wetland delineation, an examination of cultural resources and an evaluation of potential threatened and endangered species habitats. The agreement states that the city wants the site graded to make the property more accessible for commercial development. 

Assistant Metro Editor Ben Nunnally: 256-235-3560.