SALTILLO • A management review of the Saltillo Water Department recommended that the city switch all of its customers over to river water.
The study, released Thursday afternoon, said purchasing treated water from the Tombigbee River would not only be the most cost-effective solution, it would also increase the system’s capacity to serve future growth.
“In the immediate and long-term interest of its citizens and for economic growth, the City of Saltillo should re-establish the connection with the (Northeast Mississippi Regional Water Supply District) for surface water,” the report reads. “The surface water connection to NRMWSD is the most cost-effective way to increase service capacity for the City of Saltillo and improve water quality for the customers on the west side of Highway 45 and throughout the system.
“The surface water connection ... should resolve the water quality issue complaints.”
Customers of the Saltillo Water Department will get a chance to discus the management review next week when Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley holds a public hearing at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 8, at the Community Center in Saltillo City Park, located at 200 Park Ave.
The review, ordered by Presley, determined the best way to solve the city’s well-documented problems with dirty water is to purchase water from the NMRWSD.
The city voted to do just that in July 2018. But the proposed switch was delayed repeatedly by increased estimates and the need for additional infrastructure. Presley and the PSC caused further delays.
The city has the authority to raise the rates of 2,365 customers inside the city limits and within a mile of the city limits. But to raise the rates of the 167 customers who live more than a mile outside the city limits, the city must have the rates approved by the Mississippi Public Service Commission.
Presley ordered the management review of the Saltillo Water Department before he would approve the rate changes. Delays in getting the review started forced the city to withdraw its proposed hike in January to give the PSC more time.
While unable to raise the rates of the people more than a mile outside the city limits, Saltillo went ahead and raised the rates of everyone else in March in preparation of the switch to river water.
For nearly two decades, the city water supply was split. The west side was on river water, while the east side was on well water. In late 2017, the city made the move to put all customers on well water, which could be produced for about half the price the city was paying for river water. The money saved was to be used to pay for the purchase of a 500,000-gallon water tank.
But following the switch, customers on the west side began to complain about cloudy and smelly water. Following months of complaints and flushing the system numerous times to remove sediment that was clouding the water, the aldermen voted July 5, 2018 to spend $114,000 in water department reserves to connect the entire city water system to the water district. Customers are still waiting for the switch.