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Town switching to more expensive water after complaints

July 7, 2018

SALTILLO, Miss. (AP) — A northeast Mississippi city and its residents will pay more to drink water drawn from the Tombigbee River after complaints about the quality of well water.

Saltillo aldermen voted 3-2 Thursday night to make the switch, projected to cost $114,000. That could translate into a $5 monthly increase for citizens, but many of the 200 people who came to a public meeting supported the move.

The vote came after Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley threatened a management review of the city water utility.

“The can has been kicked down the road long enough,” said Presley, a Democrat. “The board needs to make some decision tonight.”

The changeover is projected to take three months or more, as the city seeks bids and does the physical work of reconnecting.

Most Mississippi utilities rely on well water, but the Northeast Mississippi Regional Water Supply District treats water from the Tombigbee River for Tupelo and surrounding areas.

Saltillo provided that water to parts of its service area until September, but changed over to well water for the whole town because it was half as expensive as treated water.

Residents, though, began to complain about discolored, smelly water. City officials said it was safe to drink, with iron and manganese making the water brown and smelly, but flushed lines to try to reduce complaints. Those complaints got worse last month after a contractor ran out of a chemical to treat the water.

An alderman initially sought to reconnect half the town to river water. But a resident who would have been left out complained.

“I’ve put up with bad water for 18 years. It’s hard to fathom why you would selectively cure half the city,” said Michael Chapman.

Aldermen moved to connect the whole city when they learned the initial price would be only $4,000 more.

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Information from: Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, http://djournal.com

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