River residents comment on resort plans for sewer treatment facility

For about an hour last Tuesday, opponents to plans by an RV park to construction of a wastewater treatment facility which would discharge into the Bogue Chitto River had their say.
A dozen people commented during a virtual public hearing by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality on plans by Paradise Ranch RV Resort to construct a wastewater treatment facility which has the capability of discharging up to 70,000 gallons of treated wastewater into Bogue Chitto River per day, according to its design plans. The park’s owner says; however, the park will never generate that much daily discharge.
“Even if we had 600 sites, it would be nowhere near that,” said Paradise Ranch RV Resort owner Sean Vidrine, who bought the 220-acre camp 2 1/2 years ago.
Right now, the park has 15 cabins, 100 RV sites and plans are to add another 100 sites and a few more cabins. While enough property exists to increase capacity to 400 sites, Vidrine says that’s not in the immediate future.
Tuesdays comments were recorded and are being forwarded to the MDEQ Permit Board. A decision will be issued later.
Most of those commenting expressed concerns about frequent flooding on the river and the adverse affects they fear from discharging treated wastewater into the river.
Already the City of Brookhaven and Sanderson Farms discharge treated wastewater from their treatment plants. Those commenting last week said they don’t want any more direct discharge into the river.
Andrew Whitehurst, water program director of Healthy Gulf, said he reviewed 24 discharge permits from the three Mississippi counties along the river, accounting for over 400 million gallons per day discharged into the Bogue Chitto.
Whitehurst says the elevation of the proposed treatment plant at Paradise Ranch falls below the 100-year flood plane of the river. And even if the treatment plant itself isn’t flooded, high water at the site could still cause sewer lines at RV sites to discharge into the river.
Other environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and Restore have expressed opposition, as well.
Landowner Laura King says she’s concerned about the impact the dumping of wastewater into the river will have on her property.
One Louisiana landowner said what happens with the Paradise Ranch permit will affect landowners downstream and the Bogue Chitto State Park in Franklinton. He pointed to the popularity of tubing on the river, and the fact that tubers are “in the water.”
“I would say at least half of the users of that river are tubers, especially on hot summer days,” he said.
Landowner Jerry Moore lives downstream from the resort and said while he favors economic development in the county, he opposes contamination of the river for personal gain.
“I don’t dump my sewage into the river and Paradise Ranch shouldn’t be allowed to dump its sewage into the Bogue Chitto…treated or not.”
Moore operates a Facebook page, True Friends of the Bogue Chitto River.
In the previous months leading to the hearing, the proposed sewer treatment facility has generated plenty of comment, both in newspaper stories and Facebook comments.
“This river has already got a lot of stuff hitting it — this camp, other camps up the river and a chicken farm,” said Margie Vicknair-Pray of St. Tammany Parish, the conservation coordinator for the Sierra Club Delta Chapter. “The Bogue Chitto is the most canoed on, most kayaked on, most picnicked on river,” she said, arguing that the permit should be refused.
Park owners had invited the public to attend a meeting at the park for an explanation of how the proposed treatment facility would be built and how it would function, but the meeting was poorly attended.
At that meeting Vidrine said the Bogue Chitto is part of the attraction of Paradise Ranch, which offers canoeing, kayaks and tubing as part of its attractions.
“We have property on the river, my kids swim and fish in the river,” he said. “What advantage do I have for doing something bad to the river?”‘

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