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franklin county times

Marion's bill piles up while town officials await OK from DEQ

By Staff
SEWAGE TREATMENT PLANT n Marion Mayor Malcolm Threatt points Wednesday to a place on a map of Marion where he believes a new sewage treatment plant should be built. Threatt said he expects the project, if approved, would either be on top of or close to an old plant that closed in 1997. Photo by Kyle Carter/The Meridian Star
By Fredie Carmichael / staff writer
July 1, 2004
Marion officials are awaiting approval from the state to build a new wastewater treatment plant while its wastewater bills from the city of Meridian continue to pile up.
Marion's old wastewater treatment plant off Marion Drive hasn't treated sewage in the town of 1,300 people since 1987 when Meridian began treating the waste.
Marion officials have said a 2003 court-mandated increase in the town's sewer rates could force them to revamp the old plant.
They have not received permission, however, from the state Department of Environmental Quality to build the plant. Meanwhile, their bill with the city of Meridian has continued to grow.
Last week, Marion's engineers, Kemp Associates, wrote DEQ a letter requesting a meeting about the new plant.
In May, DEQ Executive Director Charles H. Chisolm wrote Threatt saying DEQ would not allow Marion to discharge treated wastewater from a new plant into Sowashee Creek Meridian's main drainage canal.
Chisolm recommended Marion relocate the proposed discharge to another stream or design a new plant that would not discharge to surface water at all.
Another option, Chisolm said, would be for Marion and Meridian to work a pollutant trade agreement to put limits on the amount of discharge.
If Marion gets the DEQ permit, town officials are considering applying for a $450,000 Mississippi Development Authority grant to make sewerage improvements, which could include renovating the old plant.
While Marion's bill with Meridian has grown, Threatt has insisted Meridian officials have been less than understanding of the smaller town's situation. Threatt has also claimed Meridian is bullying its way toward annexing Marion by not being lenient.
Meridian city councilmen voted in October to seek legal action against the town of Marion and demand payment of past-due wastewater treatment bills. Since Meridian is currently involved in a lawsuit with Marion over the past-due bill, Dave Brown, the city's internal auditor, said he could not discuss how much money Marion currently owes.
Tension between the neighboring municipalities ignited last year when a Lauderdale County chancery judge ruled that Meridian could begin charging Marion $2.43 cents per thousand gallons of treated sewage up from 67.7 cents per thousand gallons.
The ruling ended a two-year battle over the sewage rate.
The two have also clashed recently in heated annexation battles Meridian winning the most recent skirmish two years ago when it thwarted Marion's plans to annex parts of north Lauderdale County.
Threatt has said he believes Meridian officials are positioning themselves to swallow his town. And, he said, if Marion is able to treat its own sewage, that would make them less dependent on Meridian.

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