The DeSoto County Wastewater Project began in 1994 when the Corps of Engineers, Memphis District published a study that outlined the need for a county-wide wastewater treatment system in order to meet the needs of the rapidly growing population and to clean up the area’s streams, creeks and lakes.
From 1990 to 2000, DeSoto County’s population grew by 58%, from 67,910 to 107,199. An expanded wastewater treatment system is necessary to service this growing population.
Sampling of the rivers and streams in DeSoto County has indicated that the quality of most of these surface waters does not meet government standards. An expanded wastewater treatment system will help protect the county’s rivers and streams, including one its most valuable natural assets, Arkabutla Lake.
In response, the DeSoto County Board of Supervisors developed a Wastewater System Master Plan in 1998, which called for the installation of a county-wide sewer system and construction of new wastewater treatment plants.
Soon after, the Mississippi Legislature authorized the creation of the DeSoto County Regional Utility Authority (DCRUA) to oversee the project.
Today, DCRUA is composed of one member from each of the five municipalities in the county (Hernando, Horn Lake, Village of Memphis, Olive Branch and Southaven) and two at-large members. Appointments to the authority are made by the DeSoto County Board of Supervisors.
DCRUA is guiding a multi-year initiative that will eventually include the installation of more than 100 miles of new sewer lines throughout the county, as well as the construction of two new wastewater treatment plants. The project is the largest public works project ever in DeSoto County, and will cost between $110 million and $140 million to complete.
From a funding point of view, this is a first-of-its-kind project nationwide – costs are being shared among DeSoto County, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the Corps of Engineers and user fees on new residential and commercial properties as they are connected to the system.
Over the past few months, several project milestones have occurred. The first new treatment plant – Short Fork Wastewater Treatment Facility – came on line in December 2005. This treatment plant will provide wastewater treatment for the eastern portion of the county roughly split along I-55. This facility will have an initial capacity of 4 million gpd.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Mississippi Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding and Renewal authorized the formation of regional organizations for delivery of certain public services, as had previously been authorized and implemented by the DeSoto County Regional Utility Authority. In his recent State of the State address, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour made specific mention of the fact that DCRUA is serving as a model for rebuilding efforts on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
DCRUA recently secured a new Project Coordination Agreement (PCA) that will give the authority control over all sewer line and sewage treatment facility design and construction within the county. (Under the previous PCA, the Corps of Engineers had final authority over all decisions with no input from DCRUA. The new PCA will limit the amount of money the corps can spend on the project.)
Congress recently approved an additional $20 million appropriation for the project.
DCRUA recently awarded a contract to construct an interceptor sewer line from Hernando to the Short Fork Wastewater Treatment plant on Laughter Road. The contract was awarded to Hemphill Construction of Florence, Miss. The Authority also approved an alternate bid of $180,000 to build force mains and pump stations for the Hernando line. Construction of the Hernando interceptor has a completion schedule of 550 days, while the pump stations and mains are to be finished in 420 days.