Rural Internet Mississippi

Brandon Presley

Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley has launched an investigation into Northeast Itawamba Water Association following a report of system overcapacity from the Mississippi Department of Health.

Presley’s office made the announcement early last week.

According to the docket filed by Presley’s office with the statewide Public Service Commission (PSC), Northeast Itawamba Water Association is serving roughly 1,500 customers via two systems – Ridge and Salem. The Salem System is now operating at 104% design capacity. Because of the system overload, the Mississippi Department of Health’s Bureau of Public Water Supply has placed a moratorium on the system, prohibiting the water district from connecting new customers to it.

According to a report on an inspection of the local water district’s drinking water supply conducted by the Mississippi Department of Health (MDH), “[n]o new customers shall be added and no new subdivisions or line extensions will be approved until the system has adequate capacity to serve them.”

The MDH inspection took place on June 6, 2018.

“This has been going on for eight years,” Presley told The Times. “It is my understanding that hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent during that time on engineering plans and studies and no action has been taken to solve the problem.”

The public service commissioner’s investigation will look into specifics concerning what the docket describes as the association’s “unwillingness or inability to serve prospective customers on the Salem System.”

Presley said the water association has a long waiting list of would-be customers.

“We are asking Northeast Itawamba Water Association to submit a short-term solution for immediate action within 45 days of receiving our notification,” Presley said. “Once that is in place, they have 180 days to have a long-term plan submitted. If they do not comply, the association will go into receivership.”

If the issue is not resolved and Northeast Itawamba is unable to reach MSDH capacity compliance, they are to inform the PSC as to why it was unable to correct their capacity issues, what steps are being taken to reach MSDH compliance, and provide the PSC with a time line for achieving said capacity compliance.

Presley’s office may also initiate receivership proceedings if it determines the local water association is unwilling to adequately service its customers. In that case, a court-appointed would run the association until the issue is resolved.

Presley said a preliminary meeting with Northeast Itawamba Water Association board member Andy Graham and operator Reed Adams, Monday, were productive. He said he’s been pleased with the water association’s cooperation with his office.

“We want them to work with us and get this resolved quickly,” Presley said. “It’s a shame and disgrace this association has no ability to add a customer or business.”

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