Hattiesburg agrees to preliminary settlement in wastewater lawsuit

Hattiesburg agrees to preliminary settlement in wastewater lawsuit

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The City of Hattiesburg has agreed to preliminary terms in a pending settlement with Gulf Restoration Network regarding the city's wastewater system.

The City Council voted 5-0 in favor of the resolution during a specially called meeting on Friday. Mayor Toby Barker announced the agreement, which would dismiss a previous consent judgement, following the meeting. The consent judgement would've required Hattiesburg to pay thousands in fines and construct a mechanical wastewater facility.

"Today's vote allows the City of Hattiesburg to move forward regarding this lawsuit and hopefully bring this matter to a conclusion," Barker said.

Gulf Restoration Network filed the lawsuit against the city in 2012 regarding the city's wastewater discharge limit. In 2014, Hattiesburg agreed to a consent judgment that made the city responsible for building a mechanical wastewater treatment facility and other treatments to comply.

In late 2016, city officials recognized that the wastewater lagoons were performing within the permit limits and moved to terminate the consent judgment, according to Barker. After negotiations between attorneys from both the city and Gulf Restoration Network, the city agreed to preliminary settlements which were approved by the City Council on Friday.

Under the terms, the city must apply for an amended permit from the Mississippi Dept. of Environment Quality and change some practices regarding sampling and reporting nutrient monitoring, according to Barker.

"These new terms are limits, I'm pleased to say, the city is already meeting," Barker said. "So that's good news for the taxpayers, but the best news for taxpayers is that we are no longer responsible for the $150 million wastewater facility and the approved penalties that we've had over the last few years, about $180,000, will go away as well once this agreement is approved in court."

City Council President Carter Carroll shared the optimism in moving on from the lawsuit. "For the next number of years our lagoons are going to be quite efficient at handling our wastewater," Carter said.