PASCAGOULA -- Councilwoman Brenda Simpkins, concerned over the higher cost of having city sewage and wastewater treated, quizzed the Jackson County Utility Authority director Tuesday night about the charging system.
She asked specifically if the utility authority sets a budget and then uses that figure to determine what each city in Jackson County will pay to have its sewage treated, based on a percentage of the whole.
She asked this saying that previously, the city was told its charge was based on flow and that the amount of city sewage had increased dramatically.
Director Tommy Fairfield said essentially the budget determines the charge, but he also told city leaders they need to look at industrial factors when trying to determine why Pascagoula's costs have gone up in recent years.
He showed the City Council one industry accounted for 7.5 percent of the city's flow and 9.6 percent of the overall charge. He said stormwater runoff from industrial sites goes toward the city's overall sewage-treatment charges and that Pascagoula may not be accurately accounting for this industrial factor, leaving residential customers to pick up that cost.
Pascagoula residents are seeing a $20.25 flat-rate increase -- businesses' increase will be $27.50 -- per month beginning this month to pay for recent increases in the city's sewage-treatment costs.
Simpkins and the city produced a chart that shows JCUA's operating budget going from $5.6 million in 2010 to $18.4 million this year and the cost to Pascagoula for sewage treatment going from $1.5 million in 2010 to $3.79 million in 2016, with little change in the actual flow of sewage to the JCUA treatment plant during those same years.
After the meeting, Fairfield said JCUA's budget has grown. It has added jobs during that time, he said, built a lab to meet testing requirements and made improvements to the system.
But he said several factors contribute to Pascagoula's higher charges and one of them is the city's average daily flow has increased 12.5 percent over last year.
He said JCUA's charge per 1,000 gallons is still a $1 lower than Harrison County's and lower than the national average, adding JCUA must meet EPA requirements.