Program manager wants to replace 100 miles of Jackson water pipeline in next five years

ITPM Ted Henifin shares details about his plans to get Jackson's water system into compliance...
ITPM Ted Henifin shares details about his plans to get Jackson's water system into compliance with federal law.(WLBT)
Published: Dec. 9, 2022 at 11:51 AM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - More than 10 miles of Jackson’s aging water pipeline could be replaced beginning next summer, so says the man recently put in charge of the city’s system under a federal court order.

“Ten miles doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s a big effort for one year,” said Ted Henifin, speaking a town hall Wednesday night.

Henifin was named interim third-party manager over Jackson’s water system and billing system as part of a court order signed by U.S. District Court Judge Henry Wingate last week.

Henifin, a 40-year public works veteran who used to head up the public works for the city of Hampton, Virginia, said the city must also focus on repairing water mains, in addition to addressing needs at its water treatment plants.

“The plants are the heart of the water system. They’re the pumps pushing it out,” he said. “Fixing the heart, if you haven’t fixed all the bleeding and hemorrhaging that’s going on throughout the body, doesn’t solve [the problem].”

Henifin said replacing the city’s small-diameter lines would cut down on the number of main breaks and reduce the amount of treated water that’s lost after it’s pushed out into the system.

“The first line in almost every study that has been done, and there have been a lot of studies done over the last 20, 30, 40 years, the first recommendation is to eliminate the small-diameter pipes,” Henifin said. “It’s where all the breaks are. It’s where a majority of all the problems are focused... So, I think we’re laser-focused now on how we can get that done.”

According to a copy of the last water distribution system master plan drawn up back in 2013, Jackson has roughly 97 miles of water lines that are less than six inches around, and that those pipelines accounted for 40 percent of all breaks.

Those breaks are occurring, in part, due to the age of the infrastructure, making it more susceptible to Yazoo Clay and extreme weather.

Between 2017 and 2021, more than 7,300 breaks were reported across the city. The areas with greatest prevalence of breaks included parts of North Jackson and the Seneca Street areas, where pre-1910 cast iron pipe is still in use, court records state.

YearWater Main Breaks
Source: U.S. Department of Justice complaint

Henifin said the first 10 miles would be paid for with a $20 million federal allocation to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

In September, Congress approved setting aside the money to help with Jackson’s water infrastructure needs as part of a larger stopgap measure to keep the federal government open through December 16.

Under the bill, the funds were directed to the Corps, which is required to work with the city to determine how they are spent.

“We sat down, and we talked about how we could apply that to the small-diameter pipeline, and I got the Corps excited, maybe even moving faster than normal,” Henifin said. “I think, by summertime, we’ll have the Corps on the ground doing the first 10 miles.”

Henifin told those at the town hall that the city was looking for additional funding for pipeline replacement and had made suggestions for projects to be funded through the state’s drinking water State Revolving Fund.

He estimates that up to 20 miles could be replaced each year for the next five years, at a cost of about $2 million per mile.

Funding limitations aside, he said the capacity of the contracting community in the metro area likely could not handle more work than that.

“The streets we identify, we’re going to basically open [them] up curb to curb, replace the sewer line, replace the water line and then repave the street,” he said. “And that’s going to be a significant, positive change for every street we get on.”

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