Construction underway on Rankin wastewater plant; city to lose major account

By ANTHONY WARREN,

Construction is moving along as scheduled on a new wastewater treatment plant for the West Rankin Utility Authority (WRUA).

The authority generates about 10 million to 12 million gallons of wastewater each day, which is transmitted to the Savanna Street Wastewater Treatment Plant in Jackson.

For the service, the authority pays Jackson about $3.8 million a year, or about 5.4 percent of the city’s overall water and sewer revenues.

The roughly $55 million plant is expected to be completed by early 2021, weather pending, according to WRUA attorney Keith Turner.

“It started several months ago. We have the foundation coming out of the ground and we are on schedule,” he said.

The facility will be located on the Pearl River in Richland, behind the Siemens plant on U.S. Highway 49.

Max Foote Construction Co., out of Mandeville, La., was chosen for the work. The company was chosen through the blind bid process.

The authority plans to spend an additional $21 million on equipment and equipment contracts needed to operate the facility, Turner said.

The project is being paid for with revenue bonds and will be paid off over time from customer usage fees.

“Communities adjusted their rates in anticipation of this over several years,” Turner said.

The authority serves customers in Pearl, Richland, Flowood and Brandon, as well as the Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport, the state hospital at Whitfield, the Rankin County Jail and other government entities and residential neighborhoods in unincorporated parts of the county.

WRUA has been working to come off of Jackson’s sewer system for years, in part, to control their own destiny, and also to avoid paying for the city’s sewer consent decree.

As part of that decree, Jackson faces between $600 million and $800 million in federally mandated spending to bring its sewer system into compliance with federal water quality laws.

Of that amount, an estimated $360 million in repairs are needed at the Savanna plant itself.

Turner told the Sun previously that if the authority stays on Jackson sewer, it could be forced to pay as much as 35 percent of the plant’s repair costs.

WRUA’s fee is based on the amount of waste it sends to the Savanna plant, which is usually around 25 percent of the total amount processed annually.

In 2017, the authority paid the city $1.7 million. In 2018, the city projected the authority would pay around $3.8 million for services. Data for 2019 was not available.

The $1.7 million paid in 2017 accounted for about three percent of the city’s water and sewer revenues that year; the amount budgeted for 2018 accounted for nearly 5.4 percent of projected revenues.

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