HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The Hattiesburg City Council approved two contracts to improve the city's wastewater lagoon function, and Mayor Johnny DuPree hopes it is a solution to Hattiesburg's wastewater woes for the next couple of years.
"We're in a position now where we can feel pretty comfortable hopefully for the next few years that we continue to focus on making the lagoons be as efficient as they can," DuPree said.
The council first announced plans to shift immediate focus from building a new mechanical wastewater treatment system to improving lagoon function at its Oct. 3 meeting.
"I'm good with where we are now because the lagoons are functioning," DuPree said. "We want to make sure the lagoons continue to function, so we don't have to shackle the ratepayer with an exorbitant fee for a new system."
The city estimated construction costs for a mechanical treatment system between $135 and $140 million to be spread among ratepayers. The two lagoon maintenance contracts the council approved Tuesday cost a combined $1,230,375.
If the lagoons are function at 100 percent, DuPree hopes they can carry the city through 2020 when it receives new standards from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and Gulf Restoration Network (GRN) for nutrient levels, and possibly, even longer than that.
"When we get our new nutrient criteria in two or three years, we'll know whether we can actually reach those nutrient levels at that time," DuPree said. "Then, hopefully at that time, we'll know where we need to be with that. We're still negotiating with GRN. We're still trying to look at those nutrient levels to see how we can come to terms together on those nutrient levels, so that we won't have to build a mechanical system at this point, since the lagoons are working properly. We'll still be talking for the next couple of weeks to see where we are there."
DuPree, the council and its wastewater legal counsel have not said if improving the lagoon function means the city will no longer build a mechanical treatment system, only that the lagoons are Hattiesburg's main focus.
"The plan was to have a new facility up and running (by) September 2018," DuPree said. "Well, we couldn't meet that deadline if we started today. I mean, there's just no way to do that. So our goal in the immediate future, today, is to make sure the lagoons are operating as efficiently as they can."