Neighbors say sewage plant plan for Woolmarket really stinks

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A sewage plant proposal in Woolmarket is creating quite a stink for people along Shorecrest Road.  Property owners say they aren't being offered fair compensation to turn their land into a sewage dump.  Between that, and the smell of sewage that may seep out of the plant, neighbors are balking at the idea of a $23 million facility so close to their homes.

"I probably stand to lose the most in the placement of this sewer system," Lawrence Rouse told the Harrison County Utility Authority.

He lives on Shorecrest Road.  And his grove of oak trees is adjacent to the proposed site of Woolmarket's new wastewater treatment facility.

"I'm ready for anything.  But I do prefer not to see it happen," he admitted.

Rouse was one of four Shorecrest Road property owners who complained about the sewage plant proposal to utility authority board members.

Jim Walker's mother owns land just below the wastewater treatment plant site.

"You can't tell me that putting a sewage dump next to a piece of property doesn't damage it," he said to the board.

The property owners, and Harrison County Supervisor Connie Rockco, cited a 2005 engineering report from Brown and Mitchell that recommended the utility authority build a pumping station, rather than a wastewater facility near the Eagle Point community.

"If we were looking at this as a regional approach, which is what the governor wanted us to do," Rockco reminded the utility authority, "we would look at pump stations on three acres instead of wastewater treatment plants on 34 acres of valuable land in Harrison County."

Rockco had documents that said land for the pumping station has already been purchased.  If it was built, she said it would carry Woolmarket sewage to the Gulfport North Wastewater plant on Seaway Road.

Walker then asked, "Why would we be considering putting a sewage dump on property that is zoned RS-10?"

That designation makes Shorecrest Road a place for homes.  Which is why the property owners kept talking about their land being used for future subdivisions.

"This could be a shining star for the city of Biloxi.  This could be a residential area second to none," said Walker.

His concern dealt with more than just a wastewater plant moving into the neighborhood.  He questioned the compensation his family was being offered.  Both Walker and Rouse said appraisals to buy chunks of their land for the sewage plant were far below purchase prices near a proposed wastewater treatment site in neighboring D'Iberville.

"Let's go back and let's revisit this before it has the potential to do a lot of damage," Walker said, noting that legal action would be pursued if his family wasn't compensated properly.

The utility district has already authorized its attorney to begin quick claim proceedings on two Shorecrest Road properties.  Supervisor Kim Savant emphasized after the meeting that the DEQ wants those properties used for the new plant.  Otherwise, he said, the county could lose the $23 million set aside for the sewage project.

The Harrison County Utility Authority didn't have the Woolmarket sewage plant on its agenda.  So the issue was not discussed after the public comment period ended.

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