JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX)- It's been three years in the making and has taken a lot of work. But finally, construction is beginning on two new water treatment facilities in Jackson County.
"We've all worked so hard to be here today, to have this day, this accomplishment for this groundbreaking," said Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality Executive Director Trudy Fisher as she addressed a small crowd outside of Escatawpa's Water Treatment Facility.
"It has been a true local government/state government partnership to be where we are here today," she said. "And it's one of those things where we pressed forward together."
They will help protect the environment as they serve a growing population in Jackson County. The Escatawpa facility will serve a vast area north of I-10.
"People are moving north, getting away from the coastline," said Jackson County Utility Authority President Brad Bradford. "Now this is helping us expand, helping us prepare for that growth."
The Gulf Park Estates facility will serve a previously populated area much closer to the beach.
"Most of the homes out here are affordable," said District 5 Supervisor John McKay as he addressed the crowd at the second ground breaking. "Not cheap homes, but they're affordable for the people. And that's why it's so important to get this sewer system going and open up this area for development. So people can afford it and can have a place to live."
It's part of a $5 billion Community Development Block Grant that takes a unique approach to Katrina recovery.
In planning for these facilities, officials had the opportunity to take a look at some of the trends post-Katrina, and pinpoint the places where people have started moving since the storm. These facilities will prepare some of those areas for a population increase.
"Your waste treatment facilities always have to stay ahead of the population growth," said Fisher.
This type of infrastructure improvements are especially important to places like Jackson County, where natural resources are so abundant.
"This will clean up any discharges in any rivers," said Bradford. "This growth would otherwise be going into septic tanks, whether those work or not, and it will provide good clean drinking water. It's all about quality of life."
Other counties participating in the grant program are Harrison, Hancock, Pearl River and Stone Counties. George County opted out.