DALLAS - Standard & Poor's lowered its underlying rating on Jefferson County, Ala.'s sewer debt six notches to B from BBB because of questions surrounding the county's ability to meet its debt obligations due to the resetting of interest rates on some variable-rate warrants.

On Feb. 25 the agency downgraded the credit to BBB from A, citing the financial pressures that analysts said could worsen. The system is highly leveraged through the use of mostly variable-rate and auction-rate debt. Last month, the county experienced eight failed auctions involving about $869.5 million of auction-rate warrants.

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