Jackson receives $35.6 million in grant money from MCWI program

This is an aerial view of of the City of Jackson's O.B. Curtis Water Plant in Ridgeland,...
This is an aerial view of of the City of Jackson's O.B. Curtis Water Plant in Ridgeland, Miss., Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022.(Steve Helber | AP)
Published: Nov. 4, 2022 at 12:41 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A little more than a month after its applications were submitted, the city of Jackson has been awarded $35.6 million in grant funding for water and sewer projects through the Mississippi Municipality and County Water Infrastructure Grant Program.

The news means Jackson will have more than $71 million in funding to complete seven high-priority water and sewer projects.

The funds were awarded to the city through the first round of the MCWI program and come months after the state took over operations of the city’s water system amid equipment failures at the O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant.

State Sen. John Horhn announced the news. “I was told by the executive director that one of the city’s drinking water projects scored higher than any other application in this first round,” Horhn said in a statement. “We are looking for the state to do more once the regular session begins in January.”

Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said the city is appreciative of the funding, adding that “this will go towards our ongoing efforts to provide reliable, safe and quality drinking water for our residents. We... will continue to explore all potential funding avenues to achieve this end.”

MCWI was established by lawmakers this year to provide dollar-for-dollar matching grants to cities and counties for every ARPA dollar they use to address water, sewer and stormwater infrastructure needs.

ARPA is the American Rescue Plan Act. Each city and county in the state received a direct allocation in ARPA money from the federal government to help with COVID-19 relief.

The state set aside $450 million to fund the program, and nearly 430 cities and counties applied. $140 million will be awarded in the first round. The next round of grants will be awarded early next year.

Meanwhile, the $35.6 million awarded to the capital city is the full amount requested by the Lumumba administration. The funds will now go into a special account, which will be overseen by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality.

Projects being funded include:

  • Replacing a raw water pump at O.B. Curtis
  • Installing a 48-inch transmission main from Fewell to South Jackson
  • Automating the chemical feed systems at Curtis and Fewell
  • General filter upgrades at Curtis
  • General pump repair and replacement at Fewell
  • Rehabbing the West Bank Interceptor sewer transmission line
  • Reconstructing a collapsed sewer main at Mill Street

A failure of raw water pumps at Curtis in August led to the water crisis, which resulted in the loss of drinking water for tens of thousands of residents.

Problems with the West Bank Interceptor, meanwhile, helped contribute to the more than 967 million gallons untreated wastewater into the environment during the Pearl River flood.

The news comes as the state is facing two federal investigations into whether the state discriminated against Jackson in awarding state funds for water and sewer needs.

EPA’s Office of External Civil Rights and Environmental Justice agreed to launch a civil rights investigation into Title VI of the Civil Rights Act in denying state money to Jackson. The EPA confirmed it had launched the probe weeks after a complaint was filed by the NAACP.

Rep. Bennie Thompson also is looking into the matter. In October, he and Rep. Carolyn Maloney sent a letter to Gov. Tate Reeves seeking information on how the state plans to distribute billions of dollars in ARPA and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding to help municipalities address infrastructure needs.

WLBT has submitted open record requests seeking the state’s responses to both investigations. We will provide updates when that information becomes available.

A list of all projects receiving funding is below.

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