Hattiesburg increasing sewer rates for Petal and Lamar County - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Hattiesburg increasing sewer rates for Petal and Lamar County

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) -

The Hattiesburg City Council is expected to vote soon, possibly as early as next week, on its preferred method to upgrade the city's sewer lagoon system.

The two options on the table are to build a new mechanical treatment plant, or use the land application method where waste is treated, then pumped to a site where sewage becomes fertilized irrigation for wooded areas.

Up to now, the controversy has been over which method to use, but there is an underlying controversy that has been brewing for months.  Both methods are expensive, so who is going to pay the costs?

"There's just no way that we're going to ask the citizens of Petal to pay that, so we're going to fight this in court if we have to," said Mayor of Petal, Hal Marx.

According to Petal Mayor Hal Marx, his city and Hattiesburg entered into an agreement 30 years ago that Hattiesburg would treat Petal's waste water as part of a flood relief partnership. 

For years, petal has been paying Hattiesburg 66 cents per thousand gallons for treating its wastewater, but that's about to change.

"It can go from you paying $28 a month total to about maybe $80 to $85 a month total for sewer," said Mayor Marx.

The $25,000 monthly sewer bill that Petal is used to paying to Hattiesburg, has now increased to more than $243,000 a month, which is an amount Mayor Marx refuses to pay.

"We're going to continue to pay the rate we have now," said Mayor Marx.

Residents who live inside the city limits of Hattiesburg pay $2.89 per thousand gallons used. The discrepancy between the cities even surprised some Hattiesburg council members.  

"We were just kind of astonished to find out that they were paying I think about a third of what our rate payers within the city of Hattiesburg pay, and the city of Hattiesburg should not be carrying Petal," said Hattiesburg council member, Deborah Delgado. "It may look like that we're placing a burden on the citizens of petal, but we're not. We were under charging them for years, and that is something that we have got to correct."

"It was not Petal's fault that Hattiesburg agreed to let us have that rate," said Mayor Marx. "We understand the rate needs to go up, we understand that we need to pay more, but again, we feel like it should be for the actual cost of treatment, not to make profit. I don't feel like it should be all on the back of Petal to pay for a new facility for Hattiesburg, when the reason they're having to get the new facility is because they haven't done the right thing with the present facility."

Not only will Petal be affected by the rate increase, but residents, businesses, and some independent water associations in Lamar County who use the Hattiesburg Lagoon as its wastewater treatment facility will also see their rates increase, in some cases, as much as double.

"In order to come up with a way that we were going to be able to pay for this new wastewater treatment system that we will be adopting soon was to increase rates," said Delgado.

City officials say they still don't know what the new rates will be for customers who live inside the Hattiesburg city limits.

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