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City approaching halfway mark with sewer repairs

The rehabilitation and upgrades of Vicksburg’s aging sewer system are nearing its midway point, city officials said.

“We’re approaching midway if we’re not already there,” Public Works Director Garnet Van Norman said. “But we have to keep working because one of these days the EPA (the Environmental Protection Agency) is going to show up (and inspect the progress).”

The city was released from a consent decree to fix and upgrade the sewer system in March 2019 and work on its 114-year-old sewer system is proceeding well, Van Norman said.

“It’s just a lot of work, a lot of money,” he said.

Van Norman’s comments come as the Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved a $1.3 million Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality Pollution Control Revolving Fund loan agreement with the state.

The board during the administration of then-Mayor Paul Winfield accepted the consent decree in 2013 after an EPA report cited the city for allowing raw sewage to be dumped into the Mississippi River and other local streams during a five-year period.

Under the terms of the decree, the board agreed to pay a $17,000 fine, develop an ordinance regulating the disposal of grease and cooking fats in the city’s sewer system and assess, map, repair, replace and upgrade one-tenth of the city’s sewer system over the next 10 years.

The board in 2015 hired Allen & Hoshall Engineers to prepare the engineering for assessing and mapping the sewer lines and hired Suncoast Infrastructure to map and assess the system. Once part of the system assessment is completed, Van Norman said, a contractor is hired to make the repairs.

“We’ve got to assess, figure out what’s wrong and fix it and then move on into the assessment again,” Van Norman said. “We’re mapping as we go along.”

“We’ve been doing enough work that we’ve been released from the consent decree,” Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said. “We’re heading in the right direction on that; we’ve just got to keep doing it. A consent decree is no joke and I think we’ve shown the EPA that we’re serious about our commitment to cleaning it up.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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