Hattiesburg Lagoons – A Step in the Right Direction

Hattiesburg South lagoons, as seen from space.Photo courtesy of Google Maps. Last week, the city of Hattiesburg, Mississippi held a press conference and released a statement acknowledging that the city’s South Sewage lagoons are “under enormous pressure” and have “quite simply…not kept pace with the tremendous growth in population and industry” that the city has experienced in the last half century. We agree, and applaud the city of Hattiesburg for admitting that it has a problem. For years, Hattiesburg’s sewage lagoons have been polluting the Leaf and Bowie Rivers, and causing a disgusting stink that plagues the city during warmer months.The next step, of course, is for city leaders to offer up real, long-term solutions for dealing with the systematic problems with its sewage treatment lagoons. On city officials touted two “short-term improvements” to the Hattiesburg South lagoons: an effort to dredge sludge from the lagoons, and the installation of new aerators that will theoretically improve the lagoons’ ability to process sewage. They also made vague references about working “to identify sustainable long-term solutions.” These efforts could have positive impacts, but as many Hattiesburg residents can attest, this isn’t the first time that city leaders have come out with a plan for quick and easy solutions that ultimately failed to clean up the gross Hattiesburg stink, and protect local rivers from pollution.According to the news release, the Hattiesburg South lagoons are among the “biggest in the country in both size and capacity.” While these lagoons might have been adequate in the 1960s, they clearly aren’t up to the task now. The city’s proposals ignore ongoing pollution from the North lagoons, and are unlikely to fix the long-term problems with the aging and outdated South lagoons.Ultimately, city leaders only took these initial steps because residents and groups like GRN have kept the pressure on, and we will be continuing to keep that pressure on until the city releases, and executes, long-term plans to update their aging, and outdated sewage treatment infrastructure.Raleigh Hoke is GRN”s Mississippi Organizer.