Explosions, Pollution, and Restrictions in Birmingham, What’s Next?


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Birmingham, Birmingham, Birmingham.  Wow, there has been some problems lately.  Let’s start with the Gate City explosion, where sadly one person was killed and others were injured.  A Gate City apartment building was destroyed by a predawn explosion presumably from natural gas.  Alagasco workers were on the scene, along with the Birmingham Police, Birmingham Fire, Rescue personnel, Birmingham city officials, and investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board, they investigate gas pipeline explosions.

A gas line that runs through the apartment complex owned by the Birmingham Housing Authority leaked and caused the explosion.  The pipe was laid way back in 1951 and is about 2 1/2 inches in diameter.  The pipe is located underground several feet from the apartment building and was buried 2 1/2 to three feet deep.  My first question is this, why is a pipe that is over 60 years old still in service?  You would think it would be replaced by now!

The sad part about this story is the residents have called and complained to Alagasco about the smell of gas before this accident happened.  Residents in the neighborhood have complained for up to three years about the constant smell of gas in their neighborhood.  Where was Alagasco?  Investigators are also looking into other natural gas lines in the neighborhood and have found small leaks.  So apparently Alagasco has ignored the people in this area, who are mostly poor.  Or they are way behind in pipeline maintenance.

The National Transportation Safety Board will be taking sections of pipe to be examined and they will be talking to people who have complained to Alagasco.  Public Service Commission President Twinkle Cavanaugh was also in Gate City talking to investigators and residents.  Hopefully the Public Service Commission will listen to the NTSB and the results and will make changes to Alagasco so this will not happen again!  What if an explosion like this happened under a school or in a downtown area?  Things would have been much worse!

Birmingham also has a problem with pollution, especially in the Collegeville, Fairmont, and Harriman Park areas.  The Environmental Protection Agency has taken soil and air samples of the neighborhoods that have been polluted from industry in the area.  Some top layers of soil from some houses have been replaced, but the areas will never be suitable for growing plants.  And the contaminated soil is causing health problems in the people who are living in these neighborhoods.

Collegeville, Fairmont, and Harriman Park are three of the poorest areas in Birmingham.  Heavy industry, raining soot, and chemicals have rained down on the residents and their property.  People have tried to leave for decades, but many are stuck, unable to afford to get out.  The residents are wanting the EPA and the industries responsible for polluting the neighborhoods to pay for the moving expenses for people who want to move.  I believe if the industries polluted the neighborhoods, they need to help the people move out.  Just like the Gate City explosion, it looks like poorer people are getting the shaft once again.

There is a Indiegogo campaign called Toxic City: Birmingham’s Dirty Secret, which will tell the stories of those left behind and explore how this happened and how to fix the problem.  This project is sponsored by GASP, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization advocating for everyone’s right to breathe clean, healthy air. Award-winning filmmaker Hunter Nichols is directing the film.  As of December 18th, this Indiegogo project has raised around $1,325 of the $20,000 they need to meet their goal.  This project only has 23 days left to raise the $20,000 or they might not get funded!  To learn more and to donate money, go to:  http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/toxic-city-birmingham-s-dirty-secret

And on Tuesday, the Birmingham City Council finally passed that controversial food truck ordinance.  What’s funny about this is the council passed this ordinance without reading what’s in it, where have we heard that before?  The Greater Birmingham Street Food Coalition has called this ordinance restrictive and oppressive, and I agree with them!  The ordinance creates food zones within the city where food trucks and push carts may operate.  Each food truck must pay an annual fee of $300 for a general permit to operate with the city limits or $500 for a “premier” permit to operate within the City Center.  The ordinance restricts food trucks from operating with 150 feet of an existing restaurant.  And limits the hours during which mobile food vendors could operate within the City Center to between 6 am to 6 pm Mondays through Fridays.

I thought government should be not be passing laws that regulates one business so others could prosper?  Food trucks in Birmingham were not hurting the restaurants in the area.  In a free market world, it’s called competition!  If a brick and mortar restaurant is not producing great food but a food truck nearby is making great food, the food truck should be getting more business.  Now food trucks have to pay extra taxes just to operate in Birmingham, it’s stupid!  Food trucks are now being screwed in Birmingham!

I wonder if the citizens in Birmingham will ever get smart enough to vote out the current city government?  Because until they do so, the pollution, explosions, and unfair regulations will continue.

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