Consultant engineering firm working to help Hattiesburg find solution for wastewater woes

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HATTIESBURG, Mississippi — Some Hattiesburg City Council members are questioning the cost of a recommended mechanical treatment facility for the local wastewater lagoons.

A study from 2011, which studied ammonia removal, projected a $170 million project cost, engineer Nathan Husman of Neel-Schaffer, told council members Tuesday.

However, Husman said, due to strict guidelines by the Mississippi Department on Environmental Quality to treat and remove more than just ammonia, the cost could be even higher.

"We are now looking at additional treatment that's required to meet these new MDEQ permit limits, and that will be in addition to some of those budgetary costs," Husman said. "We are doing everything we can to get those costs down."

Council member Mary Dryden said the project is more costly that the $142 million contract with Groundworx, LLC for a land application system that was approved by the council before the members terminated the contract.

Neel-Schaffer considered 17 applications before making a "short list" of four processes and companies, all of which are mechanical treatment facilities, Husman said.

Husman said construction cost estimates, as well as operating costs, would be decided in the next 30-45 days to bring back before the council for their approval of one process to base the design upon.

Mayor Johnny DuPree said the city will wait to see what more specific recommendations would yield.

The city has until September 2018 to build a wastewater treatment system that will prevent polluted waters from being discharged into the Leaf and Bouie rivers.

The city's two-lagoon, filtering system was damaged during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and then further compromised by highly toxic industrial waste from USA Yeast. That resulted in the discharged wastewater going into the rivers exceeding acceptable levels for various toxic elements, including suspended solids, fecal coliform and chlorine residual.

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