Bill would allow for regulation of private sewer system in Shelby County

MONTGOMERY – A bill that would provide regulation for private sewer systems in Shelby County is pending action in an Alabama House of Representatives committee.

The bill, HB340, was introduced by Rep. Arnold Mooney and co-sponsored by Reps. Jim Carns, Dickie Drake, Corley Ellis, Allen Farley and Matt Fridy, all of whom represent at least parts of Shelby County.

If ratified, the bill would bring private sewer systems in Shelby County that use public rights-of-way of public roads under regulation from the Public Service Commission, which regulates larger utility companies in Alabama.

The regulation would include rates charged to customers.

The bill would affect Shelby Ridge Utility Systems LLC, which is owned by SouthWest Water Company and serves customers in Chelsea, Pelham and unincorporated Shelby County.

Both the Chelsea City Council and Shelby County Commission have approved resolutions in support of the bill.

“I appreciate the work that has gone into getting this bill put together, and I think it offers municipalities these protections that we haven’t had in the past,” Chelsea Mayor Tony Picklesimer said and added that to his knowledge, the utilities company would be comfortable with the proposed regulation and does not plan to fight the bill’s passage.

HB340 has had two readings; been placed in the House Transportation, Utilities and Infrastructure Committee chaired by Rep. Lynn Greer; and undergone a fiscal analysis.

The bill now awaits passage by the committee before going to the full House, then the Alabama Senate and, finally, to Gov. Kay Ivey for her approval.

In February, Chelsea approved a rate structure and control agreement with SouthWest Water that for 10 years gives the city oversight of fees charged by the sewer system.

City officials had expressed concern about commercial sewer tap line and extension fees hampering Chelsea’s economic growth, and residents were dissatisfied with the monthly service fees and the rapid rate of increases between 2009 and 2016, which were implemented by the system’s previous owner.

The proposed bill gives municipalities the ability to opt out of PSC regulation—in a scenario like Chelsea’s in which the city has established an oversight agreement—or to opt back in to PSC regulation if the city ends its agreement with the sewer system.