Sewage lift pumps reopened Under-the-Hill Thursday

Published 12:06 am Friday, June 3, 2011

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT One of Magnolia Grill’s cooks, Ken Green, chops squash and other vegetables Thursday afternoon on Silver Street. Before the reopening of the sewage lift pump that was closed down due to the Mississippi River flood, the Magnolia Grill used disposable items to serves its guests.

NATCHEZ — The sewage lift that pumps waste from businesses Under-the-Hill re-opened Thursday after being shut down for weeks due to high Mississippi River levels.

“(I’m) 95 percent sure (it’ll keep working),” City Engineer David Gardner said. “To be on the precautionary side I asked (businesses) to keep (the portable toilets) there in case something doesn’t work like I planned it.”

It should be clear today whether the lift works well enough to get rid of the portable toilets, Gardner said.

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“By the weekend we should be back in full operation,” he said.

Normally, there are two pumps operate the lift to carry sewage from the bottom of the hill to the top.

One of the regular pumps was overworked during the flood and must now be replaced, he said. The sewage lift can be functional with one pump, Gardner added, but ideally there would be two to share the workload.

Floodwaters from the Mississippi River still occupy the area in front the Isle of Capri casino Friday afternoon on Silver Street in Natchez.

“We’re trying to get the second pump in there so (the lift) can work like it’s designed to,” he said.

Gardner said he isn’t yet sure what the final cost for replacing the pump will be, but some of it depends on the amount of materials needed, as well as the amount of time it will take to get the welding done.

Magnolia Grill Owner John Parks said the restaurant suffered in part because it lacked a working restroom and also because using the normal dishes and utensils wasn’t possible, since the dishwasher was inoperable. Instead, the restaurant used disposable items.

“Our business is probably down 30 or 40 percent altogether,” he said.

Parks said he’s not sure whether he’ll apply for a loan to reimburse his losses, because he doesn’t want to commit himself to paying interest.

Though Parks said Gardner and the public works crew have done a great job dealing with the flood, he’s still experienced frustration throughout the ordeal.

“The frustration comes in with the expense of it all,” he said. “We had to spend the money (for portable toilets), the money to be able to work in the kitchen — (it’s) frustration from spending and not getting any return.”

A long-term plan to make sure the sewage lift isn’t out of order again if there’s another large-scale flood may include building two walls by the two that are already near the lift to shield it from floodwaters, Gardner said.

A decision regarding the walls’ construction should be made within the coming months, he said.

“But right now our priority is to get pumps back in full operation,” Gardner said.

Building the walls would save a lot of time in dealing with sandbagging if there’s another flood, he said.

“It’s a proactive, preventative thing,” he said. “I’d rather do it now than be burdened with sealing (the lift) off in the future.”

As of now, Gardner said, there’s no immediate worry about excessive erosion.

“We probably have some erosion on the riverfront by Roth Hill,” he said. “We’ll have to deal with that when the river gets down.”

Parks said the main thing he wants people to know is Magnolia Grill is back to its old self.

“We do have working facilities, we’re back to regular dishes and silverware, and the parking lot is accessible,” he said.

The river stood at 58.05 feet Thursday evening.