MDEQ loan to replace an estimated 315K feet of Jackson sewer lines

Previous sewer line break causes a sinkhole along a Jackson city street.
Previous sewer line break causes a sinkhole along a Jackson city street.(WLBT)
Published: May. 13, 2022 at 3:18 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Nearly a year after the city council authorized taking out a loan to address sewer problems across the city, engineers are still drawing up plans on how the funds would be used.

Last May, the council voted to borrow $31.6 million in State Revolving Loan Fund money from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ).

The funds will be used to repair approximately 315,000 linear feet of sewer line in four areas across the capital city.

Plans must be submitted to MDEQ for review by September 30.

If approved, the city will then begin moving forward on obtaining easements and rights-of-way where needed and then bidding out the work.

Work will include rebuilding sewer systems in the Queens, Belhaven, and Midtown areas, as well as parts of Northeast Jackson and Northwest Jackson near Lake Hico.

“Plans will be submitted for review. From there, the city will be given authorization to advertise for the projects,” said an engineer familiar with the loan. “Then, once all the bids are received, the city has to submit the certified bid tap to (MDEQ). If it’s within the money or the loan amount, it’s good to go.”

Projects were chosen after a citywide assessment of the sewer system.

In all, engineers drew up a sewer facilities plan, cordoning off the city into 36 separate areas and evaluating each area independently.

Decisions were based on the number of breaks in each area, as well as the number of sewer complaints reported to the city through its 311 system.

Funds will be used to completely replace about 315,000 feet of piping or about 6.3 percent of the city’s 5 million linear feet of sewer line.

Final project plans are being drawn up by EJES Inc. The city council hired the company in December on a 7-0 vote.

Once plans are finalized EJES will help bid out the work, respond to requests from contractors seeking bids, prepare bid tabulations and make award recommendations.

Former City Engineer Charles Williams recommended the city take out the $31.6 million loan to help address sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) and bring Jackson into compliance with its sewer consent decree.

Jackson entered into the decree in 2012 with the U.S. Department of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA targeted the city, in part, because of a large number of SSOs.

Overflows occur when untreated sewerage leaves the collection system and enters the environment.

Under terms of the decree, Jackson is fined $1,000 per day for each SSO that enters a waterway designed as a “Waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act.

Decree documents show that beginning 10 years from the date of the decree, the city will be charged $2,000 a day per SSO.

According to court records, the decree was entered in U.S. District Court on November 20, 2012.

It’s unclear how much the city has accumulated in SSO-related fines. EPA has yet to collect on those penalties.

In recent months, manpower, a lack of equipment, and a lack of funding have caused overflows in the city to increase.

Between December 1 and March 21, Jackson estimates that nearly 45 million gallons of wastewater entered the environment due to overflows caused by collapsed pipes, clogged lines, and other problems, according to a quarterly report the city submitted to EPA on April 30.

The report also shows that another 5,350,000 gallons of wastewater entered the Pearl River due to overflows from the West Bank Interceptor. The interceptor is a major sewer main that runs along the west bank of the Pearl River.

In addition to the overflows, millions of gallons more of only partially treated wastewater were diverted into the river due to excessive flow at the Savanna Street Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The quarterly report shows that in March, three prohibited bypasses were reported at the plant, resulting in an estimated 277 million gallons being released into the Pearl.

The bypasses occur when too much flow enters the Savanna plant, which usually occurs during heavy rains. That rain infiltrates the sewer system through cracks and breaks in collection lines and is carried to the treatment facility.

At a city council meeting in December, Williams said that lines replaced with SRF loan funds would reduce that flow as well as SSOs.

“It extends the life of the plant. On the collection system side, all of the residents who would be impacted by the work would have less cause to (call) into the 311 system,” he said. “It will help the entire city.”

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