NA explores options to water issue

Several options for addressing the city of New Albany’s water supply needs are currently on the table, officials say.  It will be June or July, however, before a recommendation may be made to the Board of Aldermen.

New Albany Light Gas and Water Manager Bill Mattox said that he is currently researching the geology of the city’s current supply, the Eutaw-McShands Aquifer.
“I want to know more about the aquifer,” Mattox said.  “I want to know if it will be practical for the city to continue using it and treating it in a cost-effective manner over the next few years as it continues to grow.”
The aquifer, which begins in Eutaw, Ala. and extends west, has the capacity to supply the city with approximately 3 million gallons per day with reasonable growth for many years, Mattox said.  He said that the city currently consumes 1.2 million gallons of water per day, pumped through seven wells.
“But if we had an extremely large industrial customer to locate here and tell us that they would need 1 million gallons of water per day, that could become a challenge for us,” Mattox said.
For that reason, he said, alternatives are being examined, such as purchasing surface water from Tupelo and pumping it into the city’s supply.
“We would need to understand what it would cost to bring it over here,” Mattox said.  “It’s going to be expensive to do.”
Mattox did say that a third option would be to dig more wells and that, regardless of the board’s decision, an eighth well will have to be dug in order to stay within state guidelines.
In addition to making a decision on where the city will get its water, Mattox is also considering possible changes to the treatment of that water, due to its sometimes brown or black-colored appearance.
“There is not a health or safety issue with the water, but we do want to address its look all the same,” Mattox said. “Our aquifer has a high content of iron and magnesium, which has caused a mineral buildup inside the distribution system, particularly in the older parts of town.  We treat it regularly with phosphates, but have had main breaks that have caused a majority of the complaints.”
Mattox said that whatever decision the board makes, rate  increases would be likely.
“Preliminary cost estimates are between $10 and $20 million,” Mattox said.  “With our current customer base, if we had to borrow $12 to $15 million and if we didn’t get any kinds of grants or aid, rates could essentially double.”
Mattox said, however, that those increases would be stretched over five years and that rates would remain within range of nearby municipalities over that period of time.
“We wouldn’t be near the top, but we would be in the top quarter of Northeast Mississippi,” Mattox said.  “Our rates are very reasonable compared to other municipal and rural water systems in the area.
As for seeking any kind of grants or aid to help pay for the project, Mattox said it would be too early to begin the process.
“We have get our plan out there and know what it is before we search for grants,” Mattox said.
He said that he will have formal options and recommendations for the board to examine in June or July.