Dirty creek causes concern for county residents

Published 12:26 am Sunday, July 23, 2006

Debris lingers in creeks long after the devastation of a storm, and some residents only add to the problem with their own form of debris.

Hobolochitto Creek is one such creek littered with storm debris and debris left by county residents on sandy banks that could be used to provide a nice haven for summer lounging.

Jim Prater lives near the creek in the City of Picayune and said that in the past heavy rain, about four to five inches, flood the woods behind his house but the water would recede in about two days. Since the storm the last major rain fall’s water accumulation took about 10 days to recede, Prater said.

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“It drains such an enormous area, it really needs to be cleaned out,” Prater said.

Prater said he told the City of Picayune about his concerns. The city referred him to the Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps referred him to the Department of Marine Resources, who also said the problem was not theirs.

“So I never got anybody to tell me who had the responsibility,” Prater said.

The county does have a plan in the works to clean this waterway and others of debris, said District IV Supervisor Robert Thigpen. The board of supervisors has approached Sen. Thad Cochran who informed the board that there may be federal funding available to Pearl River County for this task, Thigpen said. Past dealings with Senator Cochran have been successful in getting aid the county needs, Thigpen said.

“I believe we’ll be able to get that money,” Thigpen said.

If the funding is approved, the county will contract out the work to a company that would have access to a device similar to a pontoon with tracks, kind of like an amphibious track hoe, Thigpen said. Thigpen said dredging will not be a tactic used to clean the waterways. Instead debris will be picked up by the device and placed on the banks for disposal. Disposal could be in the form grinding or burning, most likely grinding, Thigpen said.

Another concern with the creeks is the practice of illegal dumping. County resident Aaron Johnson has noticed that the area at the McNeill Henleyfield bridge that goes over Boley Creek is used by some residents as their personal dumpsite, or they leave trash after they are done having a day at the creek below.

“It’s such a horrible mess down there,” Johnson said. “It’s just a shame that it’s like that.”

While he has never witnessed anyone dumping trash there, the presence of bags near the bridge are a testament to the illegal practice. Johnson is confused why, if he can pay $4 to take his eight bags a month of garbage to the county dump, can’t others.

“I don’t mind paying the $4, I just don’t understand why other people can’t do it,” Johnson said. “I don’t think I’d even eat the fish that comes out of there to be honest about it.”

Names and addresses can be pulled from illegally dumped bags by the Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department litter officer. Thigpen said the previous litter officer, James Bouie, issued citations for those who were suspected of dumping trash in the county. Those citations are still working their way through the court system, Thigpen said. Bouie’s replacement is investigating new offenses to the beauty of the county, Thigpen said.

There is no need to dump trash near waterways and on the side of the road when the county landfill takes county resident’s trash for free. Waste Management’s host agreement states that county residents can bring up to two bags of trash a week for free to the dump.

“I just don’t understand it. You’re able to take trash to the dump for free,” Thigpen said. “It just infuriates me. (It’s) just a total lack of respect for where you live.”

A similar situation takes place on Oliver Davis Road where a pile of trash sits by the road side. Thigpen said the area has been cleaned about five times since he’s been in office and one time he went through the trash to find old bills. Thigpen said he found a bill in one instance and called the owner of the waste to ask her to pick it up, which she had done by her sons since she discovered they dumped the trash without her knowledge.

Johnson suggests the county could use some of the prison population to clean up the mess as a way to remove existing illegal garbage piles.