48.9 F
Oxford

Officials Battling Unsanitary Living Conditions at Beech Bluff in Harmontown

By Alyssa Schnugg
News Editor
alyssa.schnugg@hottytoddy.com

Holiday Hills Subdivision, commonly known as Beech Bluff Resort, off County Road 2009 was platted in 1977 and was originally intended to be used for weekend camping with some of the lots as small as 40-feet by 60-feet. Photo by Talbert Toole.

The words Beech Bluff Resort might conjure up images of bungalows located a few yards from white sandy beaches with aqua-colored waves rolling in, while well-dressed servers bring out fancy frozen drinks with paper umbrellas to visitors taking in the sun.

While it is tucked away close to Sardis Lake, Beech Bluff Resort in Harmontown is far from paradise.

However, it does appear to be a place where some residents go to escape – from clean, running water, legally installed electricity, the safety of a well-built home and in many cases, toilets attached to proper waste disposal systems.

Holiday Hills Subdivision, commonly known as Beech Bluff Resort, off County Road 2009 was platted in 1977 and was originally intended to be used for weekend camping with some of the lots as small as 40-feet by 60-feet.

Far from Prying Eyes

Far away from the eyes of county officials and law enforcement, a community has settled in Beech Bluff. Some of the residents own one or more of the small lots, while a few have simply squatted there for years. New people move into the area regularly. The state of Mississippi even owns some of the property due to unpaid taxes.

There are no water or sewer lines. One resident built a well and sells water to the residents, similar to what one might see on any post-apocalyptic TV show. Waste is being dumped onto neighboring properties or buried underground.

Many of the campers are barely large enough for one person. Some have make-shift lean-to sheds where belongings that can’t fit in the camper or trailer are stored or where residents sit around a campfire.

There are electric poles set up like one would find in most RV trailer parks, supplied by Tallahatchie Valley Electric Power Association. Some residents hook up to the poles, while others run small generators.

Until recently, TVEPA didn’t question whether the structures receiving power were legally owned or met any type of county regulations. However, after the plight of Beech Bluff started to make the news, Lafayette County Supervisor Chad McLarty said TVEPA is now working with Lafayette County and checking with Building Official Joel Hollowell before hooking up new residents.

Dangerous Situation

Jeremy Chance and his family own several hundred acres near the subdivision. He claims raw sewage is being pumped onto his property regularly and that while having the power company work with the county is a step in the right direction, it only scratches the surface of problems in Beech Bluff.

“I don’t get out of the car,” Chance said recently while driving through Beech Bluff. “There are a couple of good people out here who just want to live under the radar and they don’t like what’s going on either with some of the people out here.”

While traveling down one of the narrow streets, about 20 puppies and dogs run up to Chance’s vehicle. Several are on chains. They live in a trailer while their owner resides in a small shed. They don’t appear happy to see the vehicle in front of their home.

Lafayette County Supervisor Chad McLarty said TVEPA is now working with Lafayette County and checking with Building Official Joel Hollowell before hooking up new residents. Photo by Talbert Toole.

Chance points out an 18-wheeler trailer being used as a home, with small shanties made from wood and tarp close-by on the private road.

He waves at two or three people as he drives by.

“Some of the people here are retired or ex-military,” Chance said. 

A few residents appeared to be cleaning up on their properties, filling up the back of pick-up trucks.

Trying to Help

Hollowell has been going out to the subdivision weekly, trying to meet with residents and help them get their wastewater disposal systems upgraded. That way they are not dumping into nearby streams and onto Chance’s property.

“Some don’t let me in to look at their system and some have,” Hollowell said.

Some of the residents are using a pipe and pumping sewage into the woods. Others, Hollowell said have buried a 55-gallon drum.

“That sometimes can work,” he said. “But they often fail, too.”

Chance said he’s had issues with people killing his livestock and horses for being vocal about the issues at Bluff Creek.

“This is Lafayette County, not the ‘Wild Frontier.’ This is 2019, not 1920,” he said. “At some point, you just get tired of it. I’m not here to bash how people live. But if you can afford beer and drugs…”

Hollowell and McLarty believe the Mississippi State Department of Health should be more involved in the situation at Beech Bluff, but McLarty said the Department of Health has not responded to the county’s call for help.

“I heard from the head of the state wastewater division after the article ran and they said they were going to come down here and meet with us and go out (to Beech Bluff) and I haven’t heard back from them since,” McLarty said.

McLarty said the MDH recently found E-coli in a creek near the subdivision from improper sewer disposal and have yet to act on it.

The Department of Health is better equipped to deal with failing sewage systems, Hollowell said. However, until that happens, the county will continue to enforce its waste disposal ordinance.

Taking it Back

Two residents have been cited by the county for failing to maintain a proper waste disposal system, according to Hollowell, and they will face misdemeanor charges before a Lafayette County Justice Court judge.

Chance said one way the county can help is to gain control of a private road that has been taken over by a couple of the residents who block off the road.

“It’s a dangerous situation there,” Chance said.

Hollowell said he has to park his car and walk down the private road to get to the homes along the 1,300-foot private road. All of the other roads in Beech Bluff are county-owned streets.

Hollowell said he has to park his car and walk down the private road to get to the homes along the 1,300-foot private road. Photo by Talbert Toole.

“I consider it kind of dangerous back there,” he said. “There’s been reports of a lot of drug use and alcohol abuse.”

Chance said the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department has picked up patrol in the area over the last few months.

“Problem is, the county can’t get down that private road because it’s blocked,” Chance said. “Every other road is visible to the county to see what’s going on. You can’t see down that road. If you had a bunch of people move onto that blocked road with a $500 camper with no sewage pipe, it could get really out of control.”

McLarty said the Board of Supervisors and the county attorney are looking into the legalities of the county taking control of the private road.

Meanwhile, Hollowell said he will continue his weekly trips to the Beech Bluff subdivision and work with residents who are willing to work with him to get their wastewater systems sanitary, if not completely up to state codes.

“As long as they are getting their sewer systems working properly, we won’t have a problem with the people there,” Hollowell said. “We’ve gotten quite a few of those systems repaired already to where they are at least not dumping into the woods and creeks.

“We’re just over there doing the best we can with a really bad situation.”


Most Popular

Recent Comments

scamasdscamith on News Watch Ole Miss
Frances Phillips on A Bigger, Better Student Union
Grace Hudditon on A Bigger, Better Student Union
Millie Johnston on A Bigger, Better Student Union
Binary options + Bitcoin = $ 1643 per week: https://8000-usd-per-day.blogspot.com.tr?b=46 on Beta Upsilon Chi: A Christian Brotherhood
Jay Mitchell on Reflections: The Square
Terry Wilcox SFCV USA RET on Oxford's Five Guys Announces Opening Date
Stephanie on Throwback Summer
organized religion is mans downfall on VP of Palmer Home Devotes Life to Finding Homes for Children
Paige Williams on Boyer: Best 10 Books of 2018
Keith mansel on Cleveland On Medgar Evans