Millions in water & sewer not getting to Harrison Co. residents - - The News for South Mississippi

Millions in water & sewer not getting to Harrison Co. residents


By Danielle Thomas – bio | email

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Imagine being told there's a water or sewer system within feet of your home or business, then being told you can't hook up to it. Supervisors say that's exactly what is happening in parts of Harrison County.

The federal government is paying hundreds of millions of dollars to expand water and sewer service. However, that money doesn't cover getting residents connected.

Crews should finish building a gas station on the new Highway 67 in July, but owner David White isn't sure when he'll be able to open.

"I'm no closer to water now than I was 14 months ago when I started begging for water," said White.

Supervisors say new water and sewer mains are going in in many parts of rural Harrison County, but often not the collection and distribution lines needed to get service to the people.

District 5 Supervisor Connie Rockco said, "We have $247 million worth of infrastructure in the ground and we can't hook anybody up because that's not how the federal dollars came down. We're beginning to wonder if we should have just told them to keep the money."

Supervisors say a lack of money is why work isn't moving as fast as they'd like.

"For example, we've looked at the Pineville area in trying to implement a [sewer] system there," said Supervisor Marlin Ladner of District 3. "We're talking about roughly 300 some odd homes. That system, in a conservative estimate, would be roughly $10 million."

Also on the minds of supervisors are recent changes to federal ground water protection laws.  New businesses that need licenses from state, like restaurants and daycare providers, must either hook up to water systems or install deep wells. By 2014, existing businesses that fall in this category must also comply.

Ladner said, "If you dig a private well, it's going to have to be monitored. That makes it, of course, more expensive and less feasible for business owners. It can adversely affect businesses and the county is dependent on the ad valorem from these businesses."

Supervisors are looking into federal grants designated for environmental cleanup to install the needed connections. Rockco said waiting for water and sewer lines is costing taxpayer money. She said the county has 11 new water wells.

"If no one is hooked up to them, then it's like a building sitting in decay, but we still have to keep that operation and maintenance up," Rockco said. "With these five new plants, it will probably be close to $5 million a year just to maintain the [waste water treatment] plants."

On Thursday, the Harrison County Utility Authority passed a resolution asking the state legislature to enact on moratorium on the new laws until 2014. Board members are overseeing installation of the mains, but in incorporated areas, the county and the water sewer districts are responsible for distribution. 

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