BRADENTON, Fla. — A federal judge yesterday began a hearing to determine if a receiver should be appointed to control Jefferson County, Ala.’s financially distressed sewer system, which is saddled with nearly $3.2 billion of variable- and auction-rate debt and an estimated $748 million in swap termination fees.

Major insurers of the county’s sewer bonds, Syncora Guarantee Inc. and Financial Guaranty Insurance Co., and bondholders’ trustee Bank of New York Mellon sued the county last September and filed an emergency motion seeking a receiver for the sewer system, claiming Jefferson County officials failed to raise revenues appropriately to pay debt service.

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