MAGNOLIA SPRINGS – Is it speculation or fact? That is the question concerning residents of the Magnolia Springs area regarding the possibility of a new wastewater treatment facility, operated by Baldwin County Sewer Service (BCSS), on County Road …
MAGNOLIA SPRINGS – Is it speculation or fact? That is the question concerning residents of the Magnolia Springs area regarding the possibility of a new wastewater treatment facility, operated by Baldwin County Sewer Service (BCSS), on County Road 12, a few miles south of town.
Nearly 60 citizens gathered at Vernant Park Baptist Church, located about 4 miles from a piece of property, marked with a single white-stake, that some say is the spot where Clarence Burke Jr., owner of the sewer company, will locate a facility that will treat 1 million gallons of sewage.
The meeting, attended by County Commissioner Charles F. “Skip” Gruber, Magnolia Springs Councilmen Ken Underwood and Kenny Laurendine and Mike Shelton, Weeks Bay Watershed coordinator, was held to determine if a wastewater treatment facility is indeed slated for the area.
“As far as we know, no application has been submitted to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management at this time,” said Underwood, adding that Charles Houser, mayor of Magnolia Springs, said he was to be notified by the environmental agency if an application was submitted.
Scott Hughes, spokesman for the agency, said in a phone interview on Friday that “we have not had any applications submitted for any kind of new plant.”
The state-environmental agency issues and regulates all wastewater facility permits in the state.
At the meeting, Shelton said that he had not seen any notice whether a permit “had been put up for public comment."
But, Craig Dyas, a Fairhope-based real estate developer, said he was told that BCSS “is hiring the best permitting engineer in the county to get this permitted.”
Regardless of when or if BCSS issues a permit, citizens are convinced that property has been acquired for the facility and various accounts lead to the plausibility.
Bob Kaiser, the meeting’s mediator, said: “we heard there has been property purchased on (county road) 12” for the purpose of wastewater treatment. The location, in question, is west of County Road 49, north of 12 and south of 26.
BSCC did not return a message left Friday morning, asking if the company plans to build a plant south of Magnolia Springs.
Shelton said he has “heard speculation as to what kind of plant it’s going to be.”
State-senate candidate Albert Lipscomb said he has heard “mixed information,” adding that at a county commission meeting Burke spoke of a long-range plan for his company, but “there was not any comment or conversation from Mr. Burke” regarding a plant south of Magnolia River.
Lipscomb said, however: “We know that it has a potential…that the potential is there that it can be devastating long-term.”
But, Doug Lipscomb, a local sod-farmer, said he was approached by Burke, and asked if he has the resources to use 1 million gallons of water.
Treated wastewater can be used for irrigation.
“We are not for this,” Doug Lipscomb said. “I want to make that very clear.”
He said he has hired Foley attorney Buddy Brackin to preserve his interests in future conversations regarding the potential facility.
The devastating prospect, according to residents, lies in the facility’s surmised location: near tributaries, Weeks and Nolte Creeks, that flow into Magnolia River, which feeds Weeks Bay, a national estuarine research reserve, funded and protected by federal and state environmental agencies.
Citizens are concerned with how the facility will treat wastewater, and also where the finished product - effluent - will be released.
“We know we need a sewage plant, but not in our freshwater area,” said Diane Corcoran of the Weeks Bay Environmental Association.
“We’re all concerned about the same thing…we have to keep our eye on the ball,” said Dyas. “It’s important that we give Clarence Burke a fair share.”