The Mississippi Department of Health scores drinking water systems on a 5-point scale with a 5 being a perfect score.
Sean Johnston has been director of Verona Public Works since May 2011. The city scored a 3.7 on its drinking water inspection that year, just before he arrived, and another 3.7 in 2012.
Johnston never had a perfect score in the previous water systems he managed but he said he wanted to do better than a 3.7.
“I’ve never had a 3 before coming here and I knew that needed to change.”
The biggest project Johnston undertook in the water system was replacing all the city’s water meters to save money from lost water.
The project cost in the neighborhood of $280,000 but Johnston said it will pay for itself within three years, reporting they have already claimed about $15,000 more water revenue in the last six months.
“I had a commercial building that was paying $40 water bills and they went up to $300 with the more accurate readings,” he said. “They probably want their old meter back but it’s honest and the city is getting its money.”
Johnston said he has worked closely with Verona City Clerk Nita Westbrook to update and maintain record keeping and log books, something that was factored into the water system’s score.
He said The Mississippi Rural Water Association also helped him achieve the higher score.
“In October I had a bacteria sample come back bad,” he said. “(The Mississippi Rural Water Association) came in and heaped me clear out the wells, which is time-consuming and a little difficult if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing. It didn’t cost us a dime.”
Going forward, Johnston said they need to maintain city equipment and records to hold on to the perfect rating.