By Cady Inabinett, Managing editor of content
Water in Montevallo was a recurring topic of discussion at the Montevallo City Council’s April 24 meeting. During this meeting, the council heard a citizen express concerns about chemicals in the city’s water, as well as UM environmental studies students’ reports on water quality in the city.
Montevallo resident Rod MacPherson addressed the council about the presence of PFAS chemicals, also known as forever chemicals, in Montevallo’s drinking water.
“Our drinking water is contaminated. And it’s been contaminated for probably 10 or 12 years, it could be longer,” he said.
MacPherson said he read reports the city filed with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management to learn about this issue, saying he stopped drinking city water 3 years ago after reading one of the reports.
“I read one of the reports and I said we’re not going to drink that water anymore in my family. Nor my dog’s going to drink that water. So, we drink purified water,” said MacPherson.
He went on to say, “Your water is loaded with the forever chemicals, and everybody in this room has forever chemicals in their body. You can check it out if you want to get your blood tested. We’re all carrying the chemicals.”
MacPherson pointed out that PFAS chemicals can led to health issues such as cancer and infertility.
He concluded by saying, “The city’s got to invest some money instead of in a hotel or any other project, you’ve got to invest it in reverse osmosis,” as a way to remove PFAS from the city’s water.
Mayor Rusty Nix responded by saying that he met with Michael Harmon, the Manager of Montevallo Water Works and Sewer, about the issue—adding that Harmon is “aware and he’s on top of it.”
City Clerk Steve Gilbert added that a new filtration system has been added to Montevallo’s water system to work on removing PFAS from the water. He also pointed out that the city has been working with InSite Engineering—an engineering firm that Gilbert described as one of the leading firms in the country for removing PFAS and other chemicals from water.
The council also heard presentations from three students in the environmental studies capstone program at the University of Montevallo. Two of these presentations focused on water in the city.
The first presentation was by Jacob Bodino, a senior student in the environmental studies program. Bodino’s presentation focused on the relationship between the Ebenezer Swamp wetlands and water quality in the city—specifically focusing on the impacts the planned Walker Springs housing development in Alabaster could pose.
Bodino highlighted the research that students in the capstone class did, studying water upstream from the swamp and downstream from the swamp. Doing this, they were able to determine that water quality increases as water flows through Ebenezer Swamp.
Bodino went on to speak against the Walker Springs development, saying, “Being able to get into the water is a wonderful thing. If this water quality were to decrease, it would not be as safe for us, for the wildlife that relies on it and for everybody who relies on water for business, for activity, for bringing together family reunions at the park. All of these things will not be the same if development does in fact occur in Alabaster.”
Additionally, Bodino pointed out that, in their research, students in the class discovered a spot in Montevallo stretching from Orr Park to Valley Street where water quality drastically drops, warning the council to make sure that this issue is addressed.
“We have come to realize that this is a dire need, and there should be some research done within this area to determine what the cause of this is,” he said.
Aubrie Chastain, another student in the capstone class, presented a project critiquing the city of Alabaster’s comprehensive plan—a plan that cities create illustrating what their future development will look like.
Chastain pointed out that students in her group focused on impervious surfaces, which are surfaces that precipitation cannot pass through, in their critiques. She pointed out that impervious surfaces prevent groundwater from being replenished and can lead to more localized flooding.
By critiquing Alabaster’s plan, the group hoped to provide recommendations focused on stormwater management practices and sustainability.
Chastain went on to say that these critiques could be relevant to Montevallo as well, saying, “it’s best that we prepare for the future now, thinking about the sustainable practices we can put in place here and now.”
Following these presentations, council members congratulated students, with Nix thanking them for their time and effort.
Also at this meeting, the council presented certificates to the Montevallo High School wrestling team. The team placed first in their region this season, and team member Gavin Monk won at the state championship.
The council also voted on and approved five measures during the meeting. Three of these measures focused on transferring ABC alcohol sales licenses to different operating companies at convenience stores in the city.
The two other approved measures allow for planting to occur at George Daley Park. One allows for The Mission Continues, a nonprofit organization that pushes veterans to engage in community service, to plant rose bushes in the park as part of their ongoing revitalization project. The other allowed for Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority to host a tree planting in the park on April 29.
The next city council meeting will be held Monday, May 8, at 6 p.m. The meeting will be held at City Hall and livestreamed on the city’s Facebook page.
Cady Inabinett is the managing editor of content for The Alabamian. She’s majoring in English and double-minoring in political science and peace and justice studies. She enjoys reading, watching movies and generally just being pretentious in her free time.