Construction of the $150 million Enviva wood pellet plant in the County’s industrial park is well underway, but the plant construction is only part of the story. The George County Board of Supervisors, along with a host of state agency and private business partners have been hard at work on infrastructure projects necessary to support the pellet mill. These infrastructure projects have cost millions of dollars and will support not only the pellet mill but future new businesses in the industrial park, according to District Two Supervisor Kelly Wright. "These are the largest utility upgrades at the George County Industrial Park in 30 years. These improvements are absolutely necessary to bring in new industry, like the Enviva plant, but they also support our current businesses like AT&V, Vulcan Gravel and Mississippi Export Railroad. These are investments in our future." High capacity water tank The new 500,000-gallon Multi-Mart water tank that was completed only last week is one example. MultiMart Community Water Association, which supplies water to the Evanston community and the surrounding area, also supplies water to the industrial park. The pellet mill will use water - a lot of water, between 500 and 2,000 gallons per day. Multi-Mart, which serves some 600 residential and business customers, did not have that kind of capacity. Grants were applied for and received through the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) that have enabled the purchase of land, drilling an additional well and construction of the county’s largest water storage facility. “We could have gotten by with a 300,000-gallon tank but there would have been no room for growth,” said county economic development manager Ken Flanagan. “While we had the opportunity, we chose to drill the wells and build a tank with capacity great enough to serve future growth in the industrial park. The result is the $3 million complex consisting of two wells, the water tank and connecting high capacity water lines that will serve not only the industrial park but all the Multi-Mart customers. It includes a 12-inch main water line bored under Hwy. 198 E. Ownership of the complex, which is being dedicated to the late M. L. Goff, a longtime president of the water company and a former Justice Court Judge, is expected to be transferred from the County to MultiMart later this year. “A real assortment of folks came together to make this possible,” Supervisor Frankie Massey, District 1 said. “The Board is proud to be a part of this and thankful to Multi-Mart Water for expanding and providing this water capacity for our Industrial Park. This project has the right balance of shortand long-term benefits for the entire community.” Relocation of Multi-Mart trunk line As the Enviva project was being planned, the need for rail service was obvious. Survey work on the proposed upgrades to the countyowned railroad revealed the six-inch Multi-Mart water line serving the industrial park and Evanston Road would be under part of the rail. An MDA grant of $150,000 was obtained to move this water line to the other side of Evanston Road. The six-inch water line was replaced with new 10-inch piping. This project is now completed, ready to serve not only Enviva but also the rest of the businesses in the industrial park. Natural Gas Pipeline Natural gas energy is a part of the story. Enviva will use natural gas daily for its wood chip dryers. Other businesses in the industrial park also depend upon natural gas as an energy source. Negotiations began more than three years ago with Atmos Energy, which at the time was laying a new pipeline through the county, to construct a new six-inch steel pipeline from a header near Agricola to the industrial park. That line was to replace existing one-inch PVC lines. “If you had asked any of the Industrial Park businesses in 2017, they would have told you the current gas lines were running at full capacity. This new line gives us the capacity to serve current customers and future needs for years to come. Honestly, 10 years from now developers will wonder, 'how did George County get this huge gas line installed,'” Flanagan said. The new pipeline, now complete, was built at little to no cost to the county, Flanagan said. Atmos Energy absorbed approximately a third of the cost and the remainder was paid from funds the county negotiated with Boardwalk Pipeline Partners when that company ran a transmission line through the county about five years ago. The Atmos Energy pipeline cost approximately $2.5 million. Industrial park rail line The County owns a rail line in the industrial park. The rail line connects to the South Mississippi Export Railroad at Evanston. The rail line opens rail service to all businesses in the industrial park and will be a key part of the pellet plant operation. The roughly 3,200 feet of countyowned rail is being upgraded to carry heavier weight and extended another 2,850 feet through the Enviva property nearing the center of the industrial park. Bids were just recently opened on Phase I of this project, upgrading the existing rail, and next week the Board of Supervisors will have the project engineer’s recommendation for a $1.63 million bid. Funding for this project is coming from the federal sources. Phase II of the project is the roughly 2,850-foot extension still in the hands of engineering firms doing the design work. Bids should be let for this project, estimated to cost more than $1 million. Phase II is to be paid for through Restore Act funds (money set aside from the BP oil spill settlement). Work on both projects is to be complete by the time the pellet mill is ready to begin production. When in full operation, Enviva expects to ship 30- plus rail cars of wood pellets to the Port of Pascagoula each day. Truck entrance The pellet mill is expected to process 5,000 to 5,600 tons of wood each day. That will mean as many as 180 to 200 truckloads of wood will daily be turning off Hwy. 198 E into the pellet mill. To avoid congestion on Hwy. 198, a three-lane truck entrance into the mill has been designed and will be constructed. A $1.4 million federal grant was announced by then Governor Phil Bryant in June, last year. That money is coming from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. Work on that project is slated to begin in January or February next year.
Sewer lift station
Fresh water becomes wastewater and that system had to be improved as well. The County owns a wastewater sewer system that extends from Goober’s Laundromat on Hwy. 198 down along the industrial park on Evanston Road and connects into the City of Lucedale sewer system near Mill Street Extension. A new, improved lift station was necessary to handle the increased volume. Again an MDA grant, this time for $130,000 was obtain to fund the project. Construction of the Enviva pellet mill began earlier this year and should be complete by late summer or the fall of 2021. A lot has had to happen in support of that mill. So far the county has obtained roughly $10,230,000 in grants and outside funding for infrastructure projects over the past three years. Infrastructure not only for Enviva and existing industrial park businesses, but future business needs as well.