City of Jackson dealing with backlog of over 800 sewer-related issues

City engineers confirms there are about 800 backlogged calls
Updated: Jun. 25, 2020 at 10:07 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Residents in a Jackson neighborhood are calling on the city to repair what they say has been a year-long sewage issue.

Neighbors say the ditch that runs behind their homes on Pear Orchard Place is often filled with stagnant raw sewage that disperses a rancid stench across the neighborhood.

Jose Paz said his neighbors have contacted the city’s Public Works Department in the past regarding the drainage ditch, and workers have come out to move the water but it’s only a matter of time before the water rises again and the smell returns.

Paz said he and his wife contacted the Public Works Department about the issue back in March and after several weeks, a representative told them the department was dealing with several sewage issues in the city and they could not give Paz an estimated date on when a crew could come to address the issue.

In early May, Paz went through another avenue in an attempt to get the issue resolved and contacted Ward 1 Jackson City Councilman Ashby Foote.

“A staff member with Mr. Foote’s office called me, and again, I addressed my concerns and told them about the issues we have been experiencing for well over a year,” Paz said. “She at that time told me that they would send somebody out, but also told me not to be discouraged but there were over 800 sewage issues within the city.”

On June 22, Paz said he called the Public Works Department again and was told a work order on his call was reissued.

However, he was not given a date on when city workers might swing by to clear the ditch.

“It’s just bad timing with the pandemic that we’re in and the time that we’re in,” Paz said. “We were sheltered in place for a period of time, can’t go places and now it’s very difficult to even go outside of your own house, dealing with the sewer issues that we’re having.”

Paz said one of his biggest concerns is for his family’s health and said his younger family members cannot enjoy time outdoors because of the bad odor.

“It wasn’t very surprising when I saw a couple of days ago that the MDEQ issued a statement for people to stay away from the Pearl River, from activities in the Pearl and fishing in the Pearl because of the ongoing sewage issues that they’re seeing in the Pearl,” Paz said.

Calloway Harvey also lives in the neighborhood and said the smell resembles rotten eggs.

“The sewer backed up and they came out about a year ago and cleaned it out,” Harvey said. “I guess the sewer backed up into the drainage ditch behind the house and it really smelled awful then. It can get really, really foul.”

Harvey said a city employee told him the drainage ditch is only supposed to drain water from the roads.

“The drainage ditch has been blocked up, the water becomes stagnant and there are mosquitoes,” Harvey said. “It’s really bad, it really is. The city needs to do something and come out to trim the back of the drainage ditch, which they’re supposed to do but I’ve called them. I’ve been here 5 years, they came out once and didn’t do anything.”

3 On Your Side spoke to Jackson City Engineer Dr. Charles Williams who confirmed the city is dealing with a backlog of sewer-related calls.

Williams said the city has been receiving a high volume of calls for the past 8-9 months.

He said it’s due to the large amount of rainfall the city received in the last year, including the Pearl River flooding earlier this year, as well as the city’s aging infrastructure.

“Typically, we would try to respond within a timely manner in order to address them, that’s a part of the city’s sanitary overflow response plan,” Williams said. “We’ve been having some difficulties trying to adhere to it due to a lack of equipment and personnel but we’re trying to improve on the notification part of that. In other words, letting people know where we’re having these issues at and hoping they would avoid those issues as it relates to contamination.”

Williams said the city is exploring options to purchase additional vacuum jet trucks, hire additional staff within the sewer maintenance division, as well as obtaining funding to help repair areas that frequently experience failures.

“The mayor did with the city council, approved $3.5 million dollars to go into the city’s enterprise fund to help with some of those issues,” Williams said. “We’re working on some addresses that we have in order to get those mitigated but, secondly, we’re going to have to go after some additional funding and that’s probably going to be through an SRF loan through the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. We’re working through a facilities plan right now, we have areas outlined throughout the city where we know we have known problems for sewer. We’re hoping to utilize that money in order to address that on a more widescale plan throughout the city.”

Williams urges affected customers to continue to call the city’s 311 line to report sewage issues and said the department is working to resolve those issues.

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