Sod farm will have to seek Utility Authority permission for its plans

Published 7:36 pm Thursday, January 4, 2007

The sod farm seeking to use shallow water in the Miocene Aquifer to irrigate during the dry months may need to apply for an additional permit.

The Pearl River County Utility Authority says that the owners of the sod farm also need to submit an application to them concerning the wells.

As reported previously, the owners of a 400-acre sod farm are considering doubling the size of the farm and seeking to be allowed to use about 326,000 gallons of water with a total of six permitted wells. In addition to the already installed and permitted well four more wells are slated to be drilled while one exitisting well still needs permitting. That water would be used only if needed and only during the dry months of August, September and October, said Jaime Crawford, assistant director for the Office of Land and Water Resources.

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Crawford said in earlier interview that while he still had to look into the matter, he did not foresee that the county’s Utility Authority would need to be involved in the matter. Recently, Crawford said he still had not had a chance to check on the status of the Utility Authority’s involvement due to the holiday season.

However, Pearl River County Utility Authority president Steve Lawler said even though the wells presented for permit with Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality will be shallow, taking water not fit for human consumption, the owners of the farm still must gain permits from the Utility Authority. Lawler said he expects authority involvement with the sod farm wells to end after the permitting process.

“… as far as requiring them to do anything different than what they propose, our involvement would be very limited,” Lawler said.

Lawler said the Utility Authority currently has no rules and regulations for what the sod farm projects to do with the consumption of the water. However, if the usage becomes a problem, further discussion would be needed.

“This will be a whole new problem that we will have to deal with,” Lawler said.

Lawler said water that comes from a depth as shallow as proposed for these wells has a high sulfur content that makes it unfit for human consumption.

Even so, owners of the farm still must submit their plans to the authority, which to Lawler’s knowledge has not been done.

He said the wells will have to meet all the rules and regulations the authority has set forth. Once the plans are submitted, they will have to be reviewed by Dungan Engineering to make sure there will not be any pending problems in the future with surrounding water systems, he said.

Pearl River County District II Supervisor Danny Wise said he does not foresee any problems at the moment with the development of Lake Troy due to the installation of the wells. According to reports turned in to the board last year by the Pearl River Basin Authority, Wise said the county aquifer has dropped only slightly.

Wise said that while the board of supervisors does not know if the proposed sod farm irrigation will adversely affect growth in the county, the board will keep an eye on the situation.

“We don’t want the quality or quantity of water to be diminished,” Wise said. “We’ve been blessed with good water all our lives and we take it for granted.”

The development of Lake Troy in the Millard area would provide many opportunities for recreation, economic development and, if needed, the potential for an alternative source of water through purification. Wise said currently there is plenty of ground water, so purification of surface water for drinking is not being considered.

“I think we’re a long ways from needing surface water for drinking,” Wise said.

Crawford said his office has received only three responses to the legal notice about the wells and he will address them individually. Two were by mail from two people at the same address and the third was by way of voice mail from a resident of Picayune. Crawford said there will not be a public hearing since the amount of opposition was so small. He plans to talk to the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality permit board at its Jan. 9 meeting, or if the meeting is postponed, it would be set back to Jan. 23.