The city of Mobile on Monday reached a settlement agreement with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management over violations of the Alabama Water Pollution Control Act.
As part of the agreement, the city admits no fault, but agrees to pay $135,000 in fines to ADEM, to purchase at least one litter boat next year and to replace its 2012 stormwater management plan with a new plan to be implemented by September, according to the settlement filed in Mobile County Circuit Court.
“This landmark agreement is a significant step toward regaining control of our stormwater runoff and protecting our precious waterways,” Mayor Sandy Stimpson said in a statement. “We commend the Alabama Department of Environmental Management and director Lance LeFleur for working with us to help bring the city back into compliance.”
The agreement stipulates the city must pay the fine in three installments of $45,000, the first of which will be paid within 45 days. The second installment is due by March 31, 2015 and the third is due by Oct. 31, 2015.
ADEM spokesman Scott Hughes said the agreement represents a compromise and that neither party got everything they wanted.
“From our standpoint, the agreement provides a path to compliance, but it also levies a penalty for past failures to comply with their permit.”
Hughes said the city operates under a “MS4” stormwater management permit, which requires them to take steps to manage stormwater so as to not negatively impact water quality.
Randy Payne, owner of Payne Environmental Services, worked with the city on its new 2014 plan and said it meets all the requirements of the ADEM MS4 stormwater management permit, under which the city operates.
“I can say our goal was to have a plan that reflects the permit requirements,” he said.
ADEM previously sought up to $475,000 in fines against the city for failing to comply with an order to implement its 2012 stormwater plan, according to a statement issued by the city.
Stimpson said the city would be committed to fulfilling its obligations to control the flow of pollution into its waterways.
“Mobile was described as a poster child for mismanagement of stormwater runoff, which is a major problem when you consider we’re one of the rainiest cities in America,” Stimpson said in the statement. “Our citizens deserve better. Our goal is to become a national model for great storm water management and this is an important milestone on that path.”
ADEM fined the city $17,750 in February of 2012 for not submitting a report for 2008-2009. The agency cited the city for failing to submit a report for 2007 and 2009.
ADEM noted, as part of the agreement significant progress made by the administration in the following steps:
• In coordination with ADEM, the city has developed a 2014 Stormwater Management Plan that is both responsible and achievable, to replace the city’s previous plan.
• The city negotiated with ADEM a new draft NPDES permit, which is soon to be released for public comment.
• The city developed a website focused on public education and will produce a video to run in the waiting areas of city offices.
• The city organized and participated in several community cleanup campaigns throughout Mobile.
• The city is purchasing and installing a large litter trap to collect and remove litter from a tributary to Dog River.