MDEQ issues advisory after sewage spill in Hollis Creek

The exterior of the Ernest E. Jones Wastewater Treatment Plant on Sand Road. (Photo by Ryan Phillips, SDN)
Pumps were delivered following the rupture of an incoming line at the Ernest E. Jones Wastewater Treatment Plant (submitted photo)

The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) on Sunday issued a general water contact advisory for a section of Hollis Creek in Oktibbeha County following an undetermined amount of sewage spilling into the creek.

The advisory comes after MDEQ reported a rupture of an incoming six-inch line at the city of Starkville’s Ernest E. Jones Wastewater Treatment Plant that resulted in sewage discharge entering Hollis Creek.

Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill told the Starkville Daily News that the city discovered the rupture early on through proper exercise of the scheduled testing process, to which she praised the efforts of city employees.

"We have immediately begun working toward first mitigation and then resolution," Spruill said. "Our people work for our community daily and this is one example of how that has served us well."

Starkville Utilities General Manager Terry Kemp told the Starkville Daily News that the cause of the break has not been confirmed, but when asked what a common or likely cause may be, he said his guess was aging infrastructure.

"There have been replacements of portions of this line earlier," Kemp said. "That’s my guess - just a failure in a joint or some kind of connection. (The line has) been in service for many years.."

City officials confirmed the advisory has no impact on city drinking water.

Kemp said crews are actively working to control the rupture and any overflow. He then said the city will use a collection system at the Trim Cane Water Association to minimize the amount of flow coming back to the plant on Sand Road.

When asked how much sewage had been spilled into the creek, Kemp commented that calculations are currently underway, but it was too early in the process to tell.

"We have a fire hydrant open to discharge into the creek, which is part of the mitigation plan," Kemp explained. "It further dilutes what has been released."

Starkville Utilities hopes to have a firm number on the amount of discharged sewage on Monday.

Spruill said the city will work continuously on repairs to satisfy MDEQ requirements.

The city is currently diluting the overflow and has bypass pumps in place.  Officials also expect to have a contractor and additional pumps Monday.

Kemp said two large pumps were delivered from Columbus early Sunday morning and contractors will build a bypass line to divert sewage over to an on-site lagoon for treatment.

"We’ve got all the pieces in place, we're just waiting on parts," Kemp said. "We will get started sometime after daylight."

Water samples will be taken from the creek beginning Monday to determine if the advisory area will need to be modified and when it can be lifted.

The advisory covers the area from the plant, located at 305 Sand Road, to where Hollis Creek meets the Noxubee River.

MDEQ says residents should avoid recreational water contact in the area and avoid consumption of anything caught in the area of the advisory.

MDEQ staff is monitoring the situation and working with local officials regarding the bypass. 

This is a developing story. Follow the Starkville Daily News for updates.