The public gets two opportunities to interact on waste treatment processes, by visiting the DeSoto County Regional Utility Authority (DCRUA) booth at the April 22 Earth Day celebration, and by participating in a May 1 hearing on proposed changes to the DeSoto Solid Waste Management Plan overseen by the Board of Supervisors.
"We'll have a good time," said Mark Waldrip, Project Manager for Severn Trent, operations contractor for DCRUA's wastewater treatment facilities, of the Earth Day booth planned on the DeSoto Courthouse square in Hernando. The annual event, with dozens of exhibitors and vendors and family-friendly activities, will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, April 22.
Severn Trent again is partnering with DCRUA to set up the booth and send staff "to talk about the wastewater process," said Judy Marshall, Executive Assistant to DCRUA Director Bill Austin. "So it's great for us and the public." Participation was approved at the DCRUA board's March session.
The DCRUA system, over nearly 20 years, has grown into a high-tech, $150 million-plus network including the $13.8 million Johnson Creek treatment plant and the Short Fork plant, seven major pump stations and more than 60 miles of pipeline. At Short Fork in east-central DeSoto, the final part of a $20 million project, to double flow capacity to 8 million gallons of treated water daily, is expected to be completed next year.
The May 1 hearing at 11 a.m. involving proposed changes to the Solid Waste Plan will be conducted by the Board of Supervisors during their regular meeting in the board room on the third floor of the County Administration Building at 365 Losher Street. The supervisors at their March 6 session approved publishing of public notices of the hearing and requesting public comment for a 30-day period ahead of the hearing. Proof of publication and invoices will go to DCRUA.
The proposed changes involve adding three parcels of private agricultural property for use in applying biosolids, generated as a DCRUA treatment byproduct, "for beneficial use as a fertilizer," according to amendments listed by the supervisors. "Only biosolids which meet or exceed all state and federal standards may be land-applied."
"This is a good use of these biosolids," said County Administrator Vanessa Lynchard. She noted that the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) requires county governments to maintain a Solid Waste Plan and to hold public hearings on any proposed changes.
The first proposed site is a tract of 225.5 gross acres and 180.9 net acres on the south side of Byhalia Road about 1.25 miles east of the road's intersection with Miss. 305; the second, of 728.7 gross acres/645.9 net acres, is about one mile north of the intersection of Holy Springs Road and Miss. 305 on both the east and west side of Holly Springs Road; and the third, containing 195.3 gross acres/175.5 net acres, is on the west end of Box Road, east of Miss. 305.
Gross acreage listed is subject to buffer zones around property lines, public roads, residences, public spaces and surface waters.
"The acres for use would be in addition to those where biosolids from DCRUA already are applied," Tracy Huffman, consulting engineer with the Waggoner firm, told the DCRUA board.
In other matters, the DCRUA board approved a time-line for requesting qualifications and proposals for the system's operations and maintenance contract. The five-year pact, some $800,000 annually, with current contractor Severn Trent expires on Sept. 30.
The board voted approval of preparing specifications and advertising for proposals, setting in motion a process that foresees advertising mid- to late April, site visits as required May 8-12, and receipt of proposals by May 18. Interviews and evaluation of proposals would occur into June, with the contract award expected July 19 and follow-up negotiations from July 20 to Aug. 31. The contract start date is Oct. 1, the start of Fiscal 2018.
DCRUA seeks offers on two options: a two-year accord with a maximum of three one-year renewals, as was Severn Trent's, for a potential total of five years; and a five-year pact with up to three one-year renewals, for a possible total length of eight years.
Board member Donnie Chambliss said he liked the option of going longer than five years. "If at the end of five years there's still some love there, we can kick the can down the street another year if we want to."
Board President B.J. Page said he hopes to see multiple firms step up: "That would be nice; anytime we can get competition, it works in our favor because we get better bids. You just have to put the request out there and see what happens."
Meanwhile, DCRUA continues to work with MDEQ on parameters of offers for Short Fork Phase II, finishing the plant expansion, and the board may have to hold a special meeting in coming weeks to approve a proposal before bids expire, said DCRUA counsel Nicholas Manley.
A bid of $17.95 million from Max Foote of Mandeville, La., was the lowest among four bids opened in January, but approval by DCRUA has been stalled by technical and legal details. Phase II involves installation of an aeration basin, two clarifiers, and all piping, electrical controls and equipment, erosion control, signage, demolition, seeding and sodding, and bypass pumping. DCRUA also is looking into security and fire-alert options for the Short Fork plant.
Waldrip, in his February operations report for Severn Trent, told the board that the short month came and went without much rain, which aided problem-free flow at the plants. Freezing lows a couple nights in March posed no danger, because temps bounced above freezing later in the days, he said.
"When we have just a day here or a day there of freezing, that's not a problem like an extended period can be," said Waldrip.
Henry Bailey is Contributing Writer and Copy Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and at 662-429-6397, Ext. 241.