Community activist Sheila Tyson of Birmingham says that those hit hardest - the poor - by a county sewer rate hike in Jefferson County are near a breaking point."These people are going to end up rioting about this," she says. "If they let this stuff happen they are going to get the biggest riot the South has ever seen. Over this sewer business. I can see it coming."
In one of the poorest districts of Jefferson County's largest city, Birmingham, a father of four who asked to remain anonymous, is now one of many in the area whose home has a portable toilet next to it.Residents are saving money by purchasing drums of water from nearby gas stations, and then paying a sanitation company $14 a month for waste removal.
"Most people who live here are on social security," he said.
"They can't spend this kind of money on sewerage. It's just outrageous. It's too high.
"I pay my sewerage bill, then I'm going to slack on my groceries. Then what am I going to eat?"
Sewerage rates and water rates, which are levied on drinkable water, vary widely across the United States.
But they are generally rising faster than inflation as cities are forced by federal government to replace worn-out sewerage facilities.
The two rates have been combined into a single bill in Jefferson County, which has increased by 329% over the past 15 years, making it among the highest in America, as the county has struggled to service the mountain of debt it took on to pay for a new sewer system.
The sewage system was supposed to cost $300 million. However, since the project began in 1996, costs have risen to $3.1 billion after various problems and a series of bond and derivatives deals fell through in 2008.
And don't be stunned, but corrupt Wall Street bankers and politicians were involved. JP Morgan Securities along with two of its former directors have been fined (Not arrested, just fined.) for attempting to bribe county employees and politicians in an effort to win business financing for the sewer project.
JP Morgan Securities and two of its former directors have been fined for trying to bribe to Jefferson County employees and politicians in a bid to win business financing for the sewer project. Six former Jefferson County commissioners have been found guilty of accepting bribes, along with 15 other state officials.
As a result of the bad investments and government corruption, current county commissioners have been forced to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy, the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.
Since the Wall Street banks stand to lose millions of dollars in debt repayments if Jefferson County's bankruptcy is allowed to proceed, they are attempting to have a federal judge dismiss the filing.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Thomas B. Bennett has decided to withhold his decision until after Christmas, although he said "he was inclined to allow the case to go forward to allow a faster route for appeals, which are certain to come no matter which way he decides."
While this is held up in court appeals by greedy bankers, people in Alabama are using bottled water for bathing and cooking, and using outdoor portable toilets rather than the too-expensive-to-flush models inside their own homes.