Northeast Itawamba water system plan moves forward

By Adam Armour/The Itawamba County Times

Officials with the Northeast Itawamba Water Association are hoping to begin purchasing water from the City of Fulton sometime later this year.

According to Reed Adams, president of the regional water association’s board of directors, the board plans to enter into an official agreement with the county seat to purchase water for its 1,700-odd customers. Although Fulton officials have previously stated their intent to sell water to the Northeast Itawamba Water Association, final negotiations are on hold until after the new mayor and aldermen take office.

Adams said he doesn’t foresee any problems with the finalization of the agreement.

“We have all the preliminary work done,” Adams said. “As soon as the board will commit on paper, we’ll start moving forward.”

He added that the original plan was to have new water pumping to customers by the end of the summer, but that goal seems unlikely to be met at this point.

Once the project is completed, water will be pumped from the Tenn-Tom Waterway into the existing system. The regional water system will connect to the city’s water system via a 12-inch line near the National Guard Armory. This line will run north to Fairview School. A 10-inch line will then run water to the Ridge system. Two pumping stations — one at Wilemon Road and one on Fairview-Banner Road — will help push the water to their respective systems.

According to Adams, the final cost of the project hasn’t been determined, but the board plans to pay for the work through a combination of loan/grant funds from the USDA. Customers can expect an increase of approximately $7.50 per month to help cover the cost of the project.

The search for a new water supply began in earnest in 2011. Customers on the Ridge Road system had been experiencing problems with both water pressure and coloration for years. At the time, board members believed this was due to a lack of water in the aquifers, although current board members believe most of these problems were due to leakage.

By September of 2012, a large influx of complaints from the water system’s customers resulted in both the Mississippi Department of Health and Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley looking into the water system’s business. Researchers from the Health Department declared that the Ridge System no longer had enough water to supply area customers and required the board to begin plotting a solution or face heavy fines.

At one point, the plan was for the Northeast Itawamba Water Association to connect onto the regional water system in Franklin County, Alabama. Although Adams said the initial cost of that project would likely be less than hooking up to the Fulton system, which requires pumping water uphill, the cost of water would have been higher.

“The construction cost [to connect to Fulton] is a little more expensive, but the cost of the water will offset that,” Adams said. “Plus, we’ll be doing business in county, and that just made sense to us. We’d much rather keep the money here. It just doesn’t make any sense to go to another state unless it would be a lot cheaper.”

In the proposed contract between the Northeast Itawamba Water Association and Franklin County, the latter stated that they could, over time, institute price increases of up to 10 percent. It was a statement that gave Northeast Itawamba board members pause and set them on the hunt for other options.

According to Adams, most of the leaks that were plaguing the system have been repaired. He said water loss is running at about 10 percent currently, well below the 15 percent loss that’s considered acceptable. This time last year, water loss was around 50 percent.

He added that the water board has been working with both the Health Department and Public Service Commission to ensure the water system’s customers are happy.

“Everything’s been going really well,” Adams said.

adam.armour@journalinc.com