Saucier Utilities turns off water to 7 rental homes

SAUCIER, MS (WLOX) - Sheila Calderon and her neighbors living in the rental homes on West Third Street in Saucier haven't had water since last Thursday, because of that, they may have to find somewhere else to live.

"Well I have two children, single mom. I've been renting this house and have had no problem," Calderon said.

There is a problem down the street. Two of her neighbors have sewer leaks, which led Saucier Utilities to shut off the water to all seven rental homes.

Saucier Utilities manager Carlos Fernandez told Action Reporter A. J. Giardina because the water lines run through the leaking sewage, the entire water system, serving 650 homes, could be contaminated.

But Cheryl Culberson said that explanation doesn't make sense.

Culberson said, "My neighbor to the left of me, he still has water, and the lady up the road here, she still has her water. And it's the same pipeline."

Linda Baker was confused, too and went to see the utility manager.

"That's the main reason I went to the water company this morning to find out why the other people on the road have water, and we don't," Baker said. "He told us it was all about Mr. Thomas' property."

The man who owns the seven rental homes, Ernest Thomas, said he's willing to fix the sewer problem, but he simply can't afford it.

Thomas said, "If they going to have me to do the whole area, I don't have the money. But I have the money to fix ordinary everyday things."

Without water, the homes aren't considered livable, so the renters will have to move.

Sheila Calderon said the utility manager told her the renters must vacate their homes by September fifth.

"Then he said the EPA would be here 72 hours after that, put tape around our houses," Calderon said. "We would not be allowed back in there to get our belongings, or we would go to jail."

Fernandez wouldn't talk to A. J. on camera, but he did direct A. J. to the company attorney Alex Brady.

According to Brady, all seven rental homes owned by Earnest Thomas use the same water line, and that's why water to all those homes had to be cut off. Brady said it was a tough decision, one that had to be made.

Renters like Julie Henry don't know where they'll go next.

"There's nothing; there's nothing. We've been looking all day. There's nothing out there," Culberson said. "It's put me in a big bind. There's no where to move to."

Property owner Earnest Thomas said he's hoping it doesn't come to that, and he's hoping to find a solution.

"I'm going to try and get them to turn my water on," Thomas said.

The daughter of Earnest Thomas, Betty Cesnick, told A. J. that she's in the process of finding someone to fix the sewer leak.

Liz Sharlot, a spokesperson for the Mississippi Health Department, confirmed if the leak is repaired, samples will be tested and the water will be turned back on.

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