Cahaba River Threatened by Barber Construction
November 09, 2000The recent summer drought has brought into question compliance by the developers of the new Barber Vintage Motorcycle Museum (which will include a racetrack) with previous agreements reached with the city of Birmingham, the Cahaba River Society, and other environmental activist organizations.On October 6, Birmingham experienced its first steady rainfall in weeks. Samples of water taken from the tributary leading from the construction site of the Barber museum to the Cahaba River revealed an alarmingly high amount of soil particles present.
Dr. Randy Haddock of the Cahaba River Society collected the samples and noted that the tributary was “completely muddy.” Photographs revealed a stark contrast between the clarity of the river upstream from the tributary receiving the construction discharge, and the Cahaba’s cloudy status downstream from the discharge. The Barber construction site is located upstream from the Birmingham Water Works drinking water intakes on the Cahaba River.
Contents of the sample jars containing water filled with soil particles drawn from the Cahaba River, the major source of Birmingham’s drinking water, looked like “chocolate milk” when the collection container was shaken, according to Haddock and several others who attended an October 23 meeting between representatives of the Barber Museum, city officials, the Cahaba River Society, and several other environmental groups. “It’s the worst single event as far as erosion and sediment control failure that I’ve seen in my 10 years associated with the Cahaba River,” noted Dr. Haddock. He also questioned whether proper storm water control measures have been installed by the Barber Museum construction.
Curiosity has also been raised regarding the status of a proposed lake that would catch construction runoff before it could invade the Cahaba tributary. Anonymous sources close to the situation say a dispute has been brewing regarding whether or not the lake was actually included in agreements made between the city and Barber that allowed the building of the museum and racetrack.
When contacted for comment, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) refused to discuss the issue on record, but said that they was aware of the predicament and were currently looking into the situation.
Officials from Barber did not return telephone messages as of press time.