City of Hattiesburg renegotiates with officials, no longer paying daily wastewater fines

HATTIESBURG, Miss. - The city of Hattiesburg has accrued a $163,500 fine after missing the May 1. wastewater construction deadline set by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ).

During a private meeting with city officials, MDEQ, and Gulf Restoration Network last week, the parties agreed to stop the daily fines of $1,500.

Mayor Johnny DuPree said, "You see what happens when you all work together, when we all work together we can have outcomes."

The fines started after the city missed its federal deadline to begin construction on a new system May 1.

"We had two good things for the citizens" said Mayor DuPree. "The $1500 a day has been lifted and the second thing is we are trying to negotiate a new agreement which would reduce the increase we had last month significantly."

He added, "Hopefully in the next couple of weeks we are able to do that."

The city faced multiple challenges with its wastewater construction plans the past year, which ultimately ended with a hefty fine.

Recently Hattiesburg City Council members voted to make the switch to a mechanical treatment system after deciding the land application method was no longer an option.

Now the city is in the process of starting the new mechanical project. Neel-Shaffer's engineer Nathan Husman presented an anticipated timeline to council last week.

He said, "The timeline we are bringing forward, we are going to negotiate with MDEQ to allow the city to have its first project in the next 30 to 60 days."

The first part of the anticipated project will consist of building an $8 million access road to the current lagoons, then an actual site preparation said Husman.

"There will be a new treatment center one day, there will be one" said Mayor DuPree.

DuPree said the city hopes to extend the September 2018 operational deadline.

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