HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Hattiesburg is one of five cities nationwide to receive a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help develop long-term stormwater management plans.
The $150,000 grant gives Hattiesburg, Burlington, Iowa, Chester, Pennsylvania, Rochester, New Hampshire, and Santa Fe, New Mexico, "technical assistance" to develop and "use a new package of tools EPA developed to help communities plan long-term strategies for managing stormwater pollution," according to a news release.
"That $150,000 (is) actually for a pilot program that EPA basically has developed, and it was developed by business people, by municipalities, counties, engineers to (decide) how do we deal with stormwater?" Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree said. "If we implement the plan, and (it) becomes something that is really workable - it really helps us for the future, it looks at green technology, those kinds of things - then it's be a program for the nation. Can you imagine that? From Hattiesburg and these other four cities, that we could actually develop a plan that could be used throughout the United States?"
The EPA said stormwater is one of the fastest growing sources of pollution throughout the country, and often overwhelms wastewater systems and overflow sewers.
"You're talking about all kinds of things that float into these streams, into your ditches and eventually end up in your rivers and tributaries," DuPree said. "It can also end up in your wastewater, which we also have to treat, and that's why you see manholes bubbling up and those kinds of things. Again, that's stormwater runoff. That's stormwater infiltration."
Reducing those issues can save cities money and attract new businesses.
"When communities link the timing and implementation of stormwater projects with broader planning activities, they can reduce costs and support more sustainable local development," said Joel Beauvais, deputy assistant administrator for the Office of Water. "As stormwater increasingly threatens public health and the environment, EPA can help communities integrate stormwater management with broader plans for growing their economies, investing in critical infrastructure and meeting their water quality objectives."
DuPree said, "It's a plan to extend the life of what we're doing, to save us money, and hopefully, to attract businesses because if you don't have to charge for more for MS4 or stormwater implementation, if you don't have to charge more for treating stormwater, if you don't have to charge more for water upgrades and those kinds of things, well that's an economic development tool."
The EPA said this program should particularly help improve water quality as Hattiesburg revitalizes the Midtown area.
"One of the key priorities for the City of Hattiesburg is the revitalization of Midtown, located just south of the University of Southern Mississippi campus and west of US 49," the EPA's release explained. "Little Gordon's Creek cuts through the center of Midtown and is a tributary to Gordon Creek, which discharges to the Leaf River that is impaired due to fecal coliform and nutrient pollution. The pilot project will help the City improve water quality in the area as Midtown is revitalized."
DuPree said, "It's always good when you're chosen. We apply for grants all the time. We're asking people to help us implement something or help us with a project all the time. But when you're selected for something that you didn't even apply for, I mean, we were notified that they were looking at us and other cities across the nation to see if we were willing to serve as a pilot for this program. Of course we said yes because if it's going to help us for years to come, to develop a plan that will last longer than all of us in this room I hope, then that is a testament, I think, to the citizens and the employees who work for the city of Hattiesburg."
DuPree hopes this grant lines the city up for more money in the future.
"To maximize the dollars, and that's what this will help us do," DuPree said. "It'll help us maximize the dollars because they have already developed what they think is a pretty good pilot program for us to be implementing, so what will that do for us? Hopefully, it'll put us in line for grants. We'll have a plan, and that'll put us in line to get the grants to implement the plan, which will then be used across the United States."
DuPree said he hopes to start the program by January 2017.