HAWL hears about the need for sewer system

Published 4:35 pm Friday, August 10, 2007

Hide-A-Way Lake is a gated community filled with septic tanks that could pose a problem for the recreational lake the subdivision is built around.

An alternative central sewer system could be the remedy for the situation and would be entirely voluntary to hook up to, if the community votes to install it.

There are 1,561 lots in Hide-A-Way Lake, of which 926 are developed. Some of the undeveloped lots are likely to remain that way without a centralized sewer system because the soil is not right for a septic tank, said Brooks Wallace with Dungan Engineering. All of the developed lots have septic tanks, or individual on-site treatment systems, Wallace said.

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The need for a centralized sewer system is based on the large number of septic tanks surrounding a lake used for recreational purposes, which the Department of Environmental Quality is concerned about, Wallace said.

The Utility Authority has conducted an analysis of the community costing $4,500, which was paid for by HAWL, to get an idea of the cost and the type of system that would be needed.

Through that analysis, the authority determined that either grinder pumps or a Septic Tank Effluent Pumping system could be used at each house to initially process waste water. From there it would be pumped to a centralized treatment station, Wallace said. The grinder pump would take place of the septic tank while the STEP system will use the septic tank but take the waste water out of it and feed it to the system, instead of keeping it on site, Wallace said. The exact system to be used would be determined on the treatment facility used to treat the waste water, but the Utility Authority is leaning towards using the grinder pumps in order to get rid of the septic tanks.

Three different rate plans were proposed to residents for the system. The first would have a lower monthly bill but higher up-front cost. The up-front cost for a house with a lot in the first plan would be about $9,000, with a monthly bill of about $25 to $30. This would involve installing lines through the whole community and pumps at each house. Treatment of the waste water is included in the plan, Wallace said. A lot without a house would pay $4,000.

The second plan requires a $7,000 up-front fee and a monthly sewer fee of $45 for a house and lot and $2,000 for just a lot.

The third option would give the homeowner a lower up-front cost and the option to connect to the system, now or later. The $9,000 fee would be broken up in three parts. Every landowner would be charged $2,000 and used to run the lines in the community. If a resident decides to connect, then another $2,000 would be charged to them to cover the treatment of the waste water and the final $5,000 would be used to cover the pump for the waste water. Monthly bills for this option would be about $30, Wallace said. A lot without a house would pay $2,000

Before any work begins in the community, there will be a lengthy process for the community and the authority to go through. A few steps in that process include a preliminary hearing, two elections, bidding out the project and individual contracts with each homeowner. The two elections will take place long before any construction begins, said Utility Authority Attorney Mike Caples. Ballots will be cast by mail.

Caples said that ballots not returned would automatically be counted as a positive vote by the Utility Authority. This statement was met with homeowner discontent from nearly all present. Also, 60 percent of the property owners would have to vote “no” to keep the project from being built.

Mike Rester with the Mississippi Health Department told the crowd that installing a centralized sewer system has always been that agency’s recommendation. The recreational lake at the center of the subdivision is the Health Department’s main concern. In addition to the sheer number of septic tanks in the community, a lot of the systems are beginning to age, Rester said.

HAWL manager Bruce Devillier said that while most residents do not report problems with their septic tanks, there have been residents who told him that they have had to pay about $10,000 to fix the septic tank problems they did have.

“It’s an opportunity for Hide-A-Way Lake, even though it’s a gated community, to get help,” Devillier said.

Maintenance of the grinder pumps and sewer lines will be the responsibility of the Utility Authority, if there is a decision to proceed, Wallace said.

To make the process of installing the system less intrusive, they plan to use a low pressure system with two- to three-inch lines. That plan also met with some resistance from the residents, since some residents said that that size of sewer line is not very reliable.