Utility Authority reportedly was prepared for hurricane

Published 2:07 pm Thursday, September 4, 2008

Concerned city officials were glad to see that the Pearl River County Utility Authority was there when needed in an emergency.

At two previous Hurricane Gustav preparation meetings, Picayune city council member Leavern Guy expressed concern that sewer services were going to need special attention if electricity was lost during last weekend’s storm. He asked for Utility Authority personnel to be at the ready in case they were needed.

To Guy’s delight, Utility Authorityengineer Brooks Wallace was at the Picayune Emergency Operations Center from Sunday evening to Monday evening after the storm passed. When a sewer lift station on South Beech Street went down due to a lack of power, Wallace called in an electrician to help hook up a generator. The team was at the location late in the night to get the area pumped down. Wallace said the situation was under control by 2:30 a.m. Monday.

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At Tuesday’s council meeting Guy expressed his gratitude concerning the dedication of Wallace and the Utility Authority for keeping sewer services going during and after the storm.

Overall, things went well for the Utility Authority in the days that Gustav’s feeder bands passed through the county. No major damage was reported in the City of Poplarville, and Picayune suffered little to no problems.

“We did everything we had to do and to our knowledge we didn’t have any (sewer) backups,” Wallace told the Utility Authority board at its Wednesday meeting in Poplarville.

To prepare for the storm, the Utility Authority purchased about $1,500 worth of fuel to keep generators and service trucks running. The Authority plans to apply for reimbursement of those and other expenses.

Utility Authority board president Steve Lawler asked Wallace’s opinion concerning the level of Utility Authority preparedness for Gustav. Wallace said they were somewhere in between being effectively prepared to just being lucky. The board considered Gustav to be a dress rehearsal and plans to work to improve on issues that did not go well.

Mike Switzer with Southwest Water Company gave a status report on the repairs and maintenance performed on Utility Authority systems. A sewer leak on North Magnolia Avenue in Picayune has been fixed and the Picayune treatment plant, while inundated with storm water, is still working with in regulations. The South Beech lift station was hit with lightning two to three weeks ago and needs a new control panel.

The manhole and gravity line replacement work on East Canal Street is complete. Video work on the repaired areas is expected to take place relatively soon, Switzer said. A number of small and large water leaks were found in the Dixie Utility system. Most of the leaks have been repaired, increasing the water pressure in the system, he said.

Some sewer work near the Pearl River Community College involved a clog associated with a faulty grease trap at the college.

Board member Tommy Breland asked Switzer about the work and the associated cost. He suggested sending a bill to the college to get reimbursed.

“We shouldn’t be picking up the bill for somebody that can’t maintain grease traps,” Breland said.

In previous meetings Lawler has expressed concern that South West Water was hired to take care of most, if not all, the maintenance work and repairs needed by the Utility Authority. Recently it has seemed that most of the work previously thought to be handled by South West was subcontracted to other companies. A meeting to address that issue will be held sometime late next week.

The next scheduled meeting of the board is at 2 p.m. Oct. 1, at Picayune’s city hall.