On Aug. 14, an administrative law judge will hear an appeal by the Birmingham Water Works Board challenging the permit of the Shepherd’s Bend Mine project. Officials with the BWWB say the mine will affect the drinking water for 200,000 customers.
Shepherd’s Bend Mine, owned by members of the Drummond family, is proposed for an area near the Mulberry Fork of the Black Warrior River, about five miles south of Cordova.
The mine, which is ultimately planned to cover 1,773 acres, would discharge water from its settlement ponds into the river — about 800 feet from the intake for the BWWB’s Western Filtration Plant.
The plant treats the drinking water for much of the greater Birmingham area, including Jasper.
Water board officials say the discharge from the mine could mean higher treatment costs for customers as well as drinking water that tastes bad and stains clothes and bath tubs.
In the last two years, several conservation groups have challenged the Shepherd’s Bend Mine permit.
Black Warrior Riverkeeper and the Southern Environmental Legal Center have taken every opportunity to appeal the mine’s application — demanding hearings with agencies like the Alabama Department of Environmental Management and the Alabama Surface Mining Commission.
So far, the project has made it through every regulatory hurdle and appeal. However, the conservation groups say the agencies have rubber-stamped the mine’s permit without ensuring that proper safeguards to protect the area’s drinking water.
Much of the land for the proposed mine is owned by the University of Alabama.
Black Warrior Riverkeeper and several student organizations have urged UA trustees to publicly affirm that they will not lease the land for the Shepherd’s Bend project.
Representatives with the university have maintained that they have not been approached about leasing the land and have no plans to do so.