Aldermen discuss sewage plant concerns

Published 12:40 am Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The signs of Christmas are already being seen in the city of Poplarville and special lighting will enhance the city’s appearance this year, aldermen learned at last week’s board meeting, but issues with the Pearl River County Utility Authority occupied much of their time.

Aldermen spent much of the meeting behind closed doors discussing personnel matters, part of which related to the utility authority, and an open discussion of a minor chlorine leak at the sewerage plant.

The city no longer operates its own sewage facility as that entity was turned over to the Pearl River County Utility Authority, which in turn contracts Southwest Water to operate the facility.

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The leak, although minor, required contacting emergency personnel. It was contained within a short radius and posed no threat to the community, aldermen learned. Poplarville Fire Chief Kris Foster said initial isolation for a leak in a cylinder of that size is a 300-foot radius.

The board did discuss its concerns over the sewage treatment plant, hoping that the new Pearl River County Utility Authority entity is performing quality work that would ensure the safety of local citizens and the surrounding ecosystem.

Initially, when the utility authority took over operation of the sewage treatment plant, the city kept one of its employees on loan to the plant. That employee had worked for the city for five years and has worked in the field for 16 years, the board said.

While the city employee was on vacation, however, the pH of the water began dropping and was logged as such by a Southwest Water operator as being below health department standards. When the Poplarville city employee returned, it took two extra days to apply lime to bring the pH back to a safe level.

Maintenance supervisor Sam Hale said the pH of the water at the treatment plant has to be checked and logged daily to ensure it never gets to an acidic level that would affect the adjoining creek. If pH levels drop at any time below 6, the operator must apply lime to bring the level to its appropriate state. When pH levels drop and become acidic, it poses a danger to the surrounding ecosystem that could cause fish in the creek to die.

Mayor Billy Spiers and aldermen discussed their concerns with Southwest Water, citing two instances when it took more than a week each time to repair pumps at two locations in the city.

Southwest Water also relieved the city employee of his duties saying it would like to have its own operator who could also do maintenance in the facility. The city employee was strictly a waste water operator.

The Poplarville aldermen’s concern was that the utility authority had a “gentleman’s agreement” with the city to retain one of its own operators who has been running the plant for years. After only a short period, the utility authority has gone against that agreement, the board said.

“It seems that once we signed the papers (turning over the plant to the utility authority), we don’t exist anymore,” Mayor Spiers said.

The city has since met with the authority to address some of the concerns raised at the Tuesday meeting.

Regarding Christmas season observances, Spiers said that residents will be treated this year to a new special light display to add to the beauty of the downtown area’s seasonal decor.

The Nativity is in place on the lawn of City Hall as a tribute to the reason for the annual celebration. City workers have also lined lighted candy canes, angels, toy soldiers, stockings and even Rudolf high above the sidewalks of Main Street to delight young and old alike.

Downtown merchants have donned their storefronts with sparkling lights, wreaths and beautiful displays to capture the attention of passersby.

The annual Christmas parade is scheduled to roll through the streets of Poplarville at 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 5.

The board did take action on several items including adding a firefighter to the part-time roster, naming Jack Brock as Poplarville’s representative on Partners for Pearl River County board and accepting a bid for lawn-care of the Poplarville cemetery.

The next scheduled meeting for the aldermen is 5 p.m. Dec. 2.