Recently I was pleased to join our Congressional delegation in announcing almost $6 million in federal assistance for water system upgrades throughout Mississippi. Every year I vigorously support water and waste water projects because they sustain and improve public health, and they lay the groundwork for new job growth. Any community's future will depend largely on the quality of public works they can provide. In the 21st century there's really no excuse for anybody to be drinking bad water or depending on a weak, undependable water system.
When I was growing up in Pascagoula, our water was brown and full of rust and impurities that may not have presented an immediate health threat, but at least were very questionable. Now our water is clean and clear enough to be bottled. Because of my own brown-water experience and that of many Mississippians, I've made funding water and sewer upgrades a priority. Our state's rural communities especially are benefiting from federal water assistance, administered primarily through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of Rural Development.
Rural systems in Greene, Perry, Holmes, Wayne, Pearl River and DeSoto counties are the latest to receive USDA grants and loans for new wells, new lines, new water tanks and other upgrades that boost capacity, improve service and add new customers to community water systems. Just 15 to 20 years ago, shallow rural wells seemed the norm throughout Mississippi. Now thanks to the efforts of many local officials working in conjunction with the state's federal delegation, virtually every corner of Mississippi has access to community water which is monitored for safety and capable of the capacities that industries require.
Sure, a lot of folks grew up just fine drinking water from a household well. Some continue to use well water, and in many cases their water is acceptable. Yet, there is risk both to person and pocketbook. Some unchecked water from shallow wells that looks and tastes good may not always be free of harmful bacteria and chemical compounds that pose a health hazard. At the same time, many rural residents using a private well always run the risk of their well being knocked out of service by equipment failures or lightning surges that can cost hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars to fix - repairs with prices exceeding many years worth of monthly community water bills. So, having good public water systems makes sense. It's safe, dependable and much more affordable in the long term.
Of course, I talk with many businesses every year who are looking to expand within our state. They openly ask about roads, education and transportation, but they expect good public infrastructure to be a given. If it's not, they move on. Population growth depends on good water systems, too. As I noted earlier, two of the recent projects were for DeSoto and Stone counties. These counties must be able to accommodate a continuing influx of new residents and businesses. I've worked with the Congressional delegation to obtain federal funds impacting several DeSoto County water projects. And, on the other end of the state along the Coast, I've worked with local officials to fund new types of water treatment facilities, including a reverse-osmosis plant in Moss Point. This super-filtration process will end Most Point's long struggle against poor water.
Public health and job growth depends on good water. In the 21st century no one from the busiest urban street to the dustiest rural dirt road should have to endure poor water. Thanks to the efforts of many concerned people, bad brown water is almost extinct. (8/13/04)
Senator Lott welcomes any questions or comments about this column. Write to: U.S. Senator Trent Lott, 487 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 (Attn: Press Office)