ADEM offers Bear Creek help

Bear Creek Water Department Employees Ethan Stone, right, and Kevin Hyde show the new water meters that are being stored at the water warehouse until they can be installed after the town’s water leak situation is brought further under control.

BEAR CREEK - The critical situation with the Bear Creek water system is being addressed in a big way after the Alabama Department of Environmental Management contacted Communities Unlimited to explore solutions.
Dinah Foreman of Communities Unlimited was the special guest at the Monday, March 1, Bear Creek Town Council meeting, informing Mayor Rob Taylor and council members that ADEM had contacted them due to the town’s high levels of water loss.
Foreman cited the town had a 55 percent water loss in just leaks, but Communities Unlimited could come in, assess the situation, train water department employees to be ADEM-certified for water testing, as well as help them explore funding opportunities toward a new water system.
Communities Unlimited also provides technical assistance and training to small communities. Foreman said the company can step in to provide smaller communities operation training and continuing education. Since Communities Unlimited is funded by federal grants, services they provide either on-line or in-person are no cost to the communities, Foreman said.
“If you are wondering why I am here, it is because ADEM contacted us. We work by referrals,” said Foreman. “ADEM tells us which communities they feel would benefit from our services, and Bear Creek came up on the radar.  I suspect it’s because of the high water loss.”  
Bear Creek Water Clerk Jamie Green reported that the town  brought in $699,203 in revenue from water bills from Oct. 1, 2019, through Sept. 30, 2020.  The town spent $277,530 to purchase water from the Upper Bear Creek filtration plant during that time period, Green explained.
“Our water bill runs anywhere from $21,000 to $23,000 a month,” Green stated.
At the first of the month when the bills go out, the town has $66,406.74 due in water bills, with $10,565.49 being 30 days past due. $3,098.91 in bills are 60 days past due and $2,407.88 are at least 90 days past due, according to figures provided last week.
This brings the total in past due bills to $16,072. 28, according to Green.
“We’re fixing to start locking meters come Monday,” Green said this past week.
Water bills are due on the 20th each month, considered late on the 21st and customers who have not paid are subject to disconnection of their service on the 25th.
“If you have a prior past due balance, you are subject to disconnect at any time,” Green pointed out.
The town has locked 15 customer meters over the past month, according to Green.
“It causes the town a lot of trouble because we depend on that money to pay our water bill and our bills,” she said. “If people don’t pay their bills, it makes us struggle to pay our bills.”
The town is currently at a total 70 percent water loss, with only 20 percent of that coming from customers not paying their bills, the clerk explained.  That means the remaining 50 percent is from numerous leaks from an overall outdated water system, town officials said.
“We just read meters, and we found more leaks,” said Green. “We fix a leak and it pops back. We’re getting to the point we are going to have to have a new service put in.”



See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.
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