2011: Year in Review – North Lee Water hits boiling point

By Emily Le Coz | NEMS Daily Journal

North Lee County Water Association found itself in hot water after employees admitted to working side jobs for their boss while on the clock at the association.
They also revealed that senior board members got discounted – and even free – water, and they alleged the association’s manager falsified monthly water samples required by the state.
Their admissions, first published in the Sept. 30 edition of the Daily Journal, launched investigations by the Environmental Protection Agency, FBI, state Department of Health, Mississippi Attorney General’s Office and state Public Service Commission.
It also led to the forced resignation of longtime association director Dan Durham and the collapse of the entire board of directors, including its president, Mitchell Scruggs.
But before the chiefs’ exits, North Lee customers expressed outrage. During an Oct. 4 board meeting at the association’s headquarters on Birmingham Ridge Road, customers demanded answers about the allegations of misconduct, as well as the poor water quality they’d suffered for years.
“My water system was completely covered in oil,” said customer Mary Ann Lewis, addressing the board at the meeting, “and you all told me to see God, it was an act of God.”
A new board of directors and manager currently run the operation, which consists of seven water systems serving roughly 4,400 customers. Many of those customers have recently said water quality has improved since the new team took over and implemented a consistent flushing program.
While the association repairs itself, investigations into the alleged misconduct continue. Expect to hear the results of those probes sometime in 2012.
emily.lecoz@journalinc.com