Ocean Springs Plans Sewer Improvement Project

Ocean Springs is in the early stages of a five year plan to upgrade its aging sewer system.

The project will cost some ten million dollars and will likely mean residents paying higher sewer bills.

Right now the most noticeable thing involves neighbors seeing white smoke rising from roof tops.

A process called smoke testing is one of the best ways to find sewer leaks or other problems in a neighborhood. The city hired a Louisiana company to do the smoke testing throughout the city. That work is about sixty percent finished and it will give city leaders a good idea about where the worst problems are located.

A pump pushes smoke down a manhole and into nearby sewer lines.

"It's pretty primitive, but it's a tried and true method. The smoke is injected and high pressure fans can push five or six hundred feet down a line. The ideal situation is the homeowner will see smoke coming from his roof vent," explained the city's public works director.

But smoke also rises where there's trouble underground. That can be a broken line or some other problem.

"What we're attempting to do is find our worst cases and we have found some cross connections, some sewer into storm drains and storm drains into sewer. Manhole covers removed. Things of that nature are being brought to light with smoke," said director, Andre Kaufman.

The smoke testing crew also maps and checks the manholes throughout the city. Workers take careful measurements of existing sewer lines. Some of the underground sewer system in Ocean Springs is simply falling apart from old age.

"A lot of this pipe has been in the ground forty and fifty years. Some of this is that old, red clay. Tera cotta pipe, four feet and the gaskets are wore out. So, it's going to have to be repaired," said Mayor Seren Ainsworth.

The smoke testing team is just part of the improvement plan. The city will also check the flow of sewage at ninety three lift stations throughout the city. Actual improvements will include both repairs and replacement.

"Some will be point repairs. People driving around town and we're digging a street up and they see fresh asphalt or whatever, there's a broken sewer line that we've found and repaired," said Kaufman.

The project will cost some ten to twelve million dollars. The city received a three million dollar grant and has other grant applications pending.

But Mayor Ainsworth says more than likely, that will eventually mean increasing sewer bills, although that decision hasn't been made yet and he can't say how much of an increase it might be.