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Marion tackles sewer problems

By Staff
RUNDOWN PLANT Marion Mayor Malcolm Threatt surveys the town's old sewage treatment plant off Marion Drive. The plant hasn't treated the town's sewage since 1987, when Meridian began treating it. Because of the recent court-mandated hikes in the monthly sewage bills, Threatt said, Marion may be forced to apply for a $450,000 state grant to revamp the old treatment plant and again treat its own sewage. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Fredie Carmichael / staff writer
Oct. 1, 2003
Marion Mayor Malcolm Threatt strolled through the knee-high grass inside the town's run-down sewer treatment plant and explained how it once operated.
The old plant, located off Marion Drive, hasn't treated the town's sewage since 1987, when Meridian began treating Marion's sewage.
About 1,300 people live in Marion. Threatt said Tuesday that a recent court-mandated hike in the town's sewer rates may force him to revamp the old plant.
If Marion gets the DEQ permit, town officials are considering applying for a $450,000 Mississippi Development Authority grant to make sewer improvements, which could include renovating the old plant.
Changes needed
Something has to change, the mayor said, because he said his town can't continue to pay the monthly bills, which have reached as high as $45,000 in recent months.
Threatt said the system's leaky pipes have allowed rain water to enter the sewer lines, doubling the amount of water Marion sends to Meridian for treatment, and creating huge spikes in the amount of each month's bill.
Threatt said the problem is in the pipes that carry the sewage from the homes to the old treatment plant, where it is lifted and dumped into Meridian's lines.
Before this year's unusually wet summer, the sewage treatment bill for Marion was about $10,000-$13,000 each month.
Threatt insists that Meridian officials are less than understanding of the smaller town's situation and claims Meridian is bullying its way toward annexing Marion by not being lenient.
Meridian officials say they can't help the problems Marion is having with its leaky sewer lines and can only charge for the amount of waste it gets to treat.
Marion currently owes about $60,000 in past due bills.
History of tension
Tension between the neighboring municipalities arose earlier this year when a Lauderdale County chancery judge ruled that Meridian could begin charging Marion $2.43 cents per thousand gallons of treated sewage up from 67.7 cents per thousand gallons.
The ruling ended a two-year battle over the sewage rate.
The two have also clashed recently in heated annexation battles Meridian winning the most recent skirmish last year when it thwarted Marion's plans to annex parts of north Lauderdale County.
Threatt said he believes Meridian officials are positioning themselves to swallow his town.
In a recent letter, Threatt told Meridian officials that it's not fair to determine the weight of the sewage at the end of the line. If Marion residents are to be billed the same way as Meridian residents, Threatt said, sewage should be weighed at each household.
This method would cut the bill in half because rain water would not be measured as it entered the system later.
Meridian officials sent a letter dated Sept. 16 giving Marion 30 days to pay its bill or they would seek legal action.
Meridian's Ward 1 Councilman George Thomas said that may be the only way to deal with the problem.