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West Rankin Utility Plant Should be Operational by September

Aug. 2, 2021

Source: Rankin County News

RANKIN – Since the spring of 2020, it seems there’s been nothing but bad news getting worse.  But there is a monumental ray of optimism on the near horizon.

                The West Rankin Utility Authority’s (WRUA) wastewater treatment plant should become operational in September, after a series of start-up procedures that will take place in August.

                If this doesn’t sound like a big deal, keep reading.

                The history:  The City of Jackson’s treatment plant, located on Savannah Street, went online in 1982, with a directive that it serve as a regional operation.  Soon after, the WRUA members – Richland, Brandon, Pearl, Flowood, the Mississippi State Hospital, and the Pearl River Valley Water Supply District – began sending its wastewater to the Savannah Street plant.

                Currently, about one-third of the flow – approximately 12 million gallons per day – comes into Jackson’s plant from the WRUA members.

                A 2010 Environmental Protection Agency report cited numerous violations at the aging facility, and ordered repairs that are now estimated to cost approximately $500 million.

                Obviously, Jackson doesn’t have an extra $500 million lying around, and all of the entities that pump sewage into the plant would be on the hook for their flow percentage.  In Rankin County, that would amount to approximately $150 million, a surcharge that would be reflected on sewer bills for consumers of all the WRUA entities.

                The sewer lines that serve the WRUA were owned, and reportedly never maintained, by Jackson until West Rankin negotiated and obtained ownership in 2002.

                “We knew then that the system was absolutely dilapidated,” said Flowood Mayor and WRUA Chairman Gary Rhoads.

                West Rankin immediately began repairs on the cracking, leaky lines, which allowed rain to seep in.  Along with wastewater that was also being treated, that drove up costs.

                “All of the lines that run from the (members) to our pumping facility were re-lined,” Rhoads said. “We’ve completely rebuilt the system.  Now, we’re treating waste instead of rainwater, and we’re working to get it even tighter.  It’s been an ongoing effort.”

                Seeking to break free of Jackson, the WRUA obtained a permit to build its own plant, which now sits on a 12.5 acre site on the east side of Richland.

                Max Foote Construction Company served as the main contractor on the new plant, which is rated to treat 20 million gallons of wastewater per day.  Jackson’s plant is rated for 46 million gallons a day.

                “The Max Foote contract is for what we call the process area,” said WRUA Executive Director Bruce Stephens.  “That contract was for $55 million, and on top of that, I purchased $12 million worth of equipment that Max Foote has installed.  We have a second contract that went to Hemphill Construction Company, and it was $12.5 million.  Then I had two more smaller contracts that total around $5 million.  All told, we’ll end up spending less than $100 million on the entire plant, and these associated projects.  That includes land and engineering.”

                For less than $100 million, the WRUA is walking away from a $150 million repair bill on the Savannah Street plant, which is 40 years old and limited in its future capacity.

                “(Our) plant is designed to treat 20 million gallons per day, and we can triple the capacity and get up to 60 million gallons per day,” Stephens said.  “In addition to the 12 acres where we’re building today, I also have an additional 50 acres adjoining that site.”

                So, do the math:  pay $150 million or more to help repair Jackson’s plant and continue sending sewer treatment bills to the Capital City, or build our own new plant for less that $100 million.  Either way, WRUA sewer treatment bills will increase, but Rankin Countians will be much better off in the long run.

                “You want to be in charge of your own destiny, especially when you’re dealing with as much growth that’s occurring in this county,” Rhoads said.  “If we had stayed with Jackson, we would be paying $150-plus million for repairs on a plant that’s 40 years old.  And we have the capacity of tripling the capacity of our own plant.  At the end of the day, we don’t want anybody controlling our growth but us.”


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