Utility authority attorney explains process

Published 6:19 pm Friday, September 15, 2006

Many changes will come soon with the implementation of a county-wide set of rules and regulations for water and waste water services.

The changes are to ensure that water and waste water services will provide the quality needed in coming years with room to grow as the county grows.

One of the changes requires all building that will have an impact on water, sewer and storm water runoff to be approved through the Pearl River County Utility Authority, which is drawing up the rules and regulations. A developer doing work on more than an acre of land involving tree and vegetation clearing or moving dirt will have to have the work approved, said utility authority attorney Mike Caples.

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“Anything that might cause storm water runoff to be altered,” Caples said.

The utility authority also is looking at ways of collecting fluids that drip from vehicles on to roads and the trash that accumulates in parking lots. These will be collected in specially designed catch ponds on the outskirts of parking lots, Caples said. The ponds may have plants and flowers around them for aesthetics.

Permitting soon will be tied to the authority through the county and two municipalities. Initial inspections by authority engineers will cost developers $30 per lot and permits will be $500 for new homes and charged to whomever pulls the permit, Caples said. Utility authority engineers conducting those inspections will save the city or county from having to do them, Caples said.

Permit fees for the authority will be collected by the city or county and dispersed to the utility authority to make acquiring permits easier and more convenient, Caples said.

“So they will get all the permits they need in one place,” Caples said.

The permit fees will help the authority get started during the next year, since they are starting without capital.

“By law, we have to pay bills. The only way we can do that is collect permit fees,” Caples said.

Caples said after the first couple of years, the price of permits may decrease.

On-site sewage systems, also known as septic tanks, for all new homes and those in existing subdivisions with 10 lots or more will have to undergo certification, Caples said. A certification inspection will be mandated every five years thereafter, but that could change to three years, Caples said. If a septic tank is found to be failing, the homeowner will have 90 days to bring it up to certification standards, Caples said. The only cost incurred with certification of existing septic tanks will be the inspector, Caples said.

“We’re not going to charge folks that are already out there a fee,” Caples said.

Septic tanks on a plot of land with only one house and not in a subdivision will not be required to have their septic tank certified, but if the owner sells the house through a bank, then an inspection will be required by the bank, Caples said. The utility authority is looking into implementation of septic tank certification even if the home is not sold through a bank, Caples said.

“We just want to make sure that when a new person walks in, they’re not walking into a problem of a failing septic tank,” Caples said.

Once the rules and regulations proposed by the authority are adopted, then all county and city water and waste water providers will be required to abide by them, Caples said.

The aim of the six coastal county utility authorities will be to connect all water and waste water services together so there will be seamless service. If one district fails for whatever reason, the neighboring district can help maintain service, either with manpower or water and waste water services. Another option involves districts sharing services with outlying districts charged for any services they use, Caples said.

Minimum design requirements will be part of the rules and regulations ensuring there is room to grow and that customers receive the best water and waste water services, Caples said.

Each utility authority will be under a larger five-county-wide Mississippi Gulf Coast Regional Utility Advisory Board, consisting of presidents from each county authority and three governor-appointed members, Caples said. Dub Herring was one of the governor’s appointed members for the Mississippi Gulf Coast Regional Utility Advisory Board, Caples said.

The Mississippi Gulf Coast Regional Utility Advisory Board holds its first meeting Wednesday, Sept. 27, at the Harrison County Board of Supervisors meeting room.