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2022-09-23 19:00:06 By : Mr. Harry Tung

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Major repairs at the city of Jackson’s two water treatment facilities could be funded through a state’s matching grant program.

Thursday, the Jackson City Council approved seeking $35.1 million in matching funds through the Mississippi Municipality and County Water Infrastructure Grant Program.

The program is funded with state American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money and administered through the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. It provides matching grants to municipalities and counties that use their ARPA allocations on qualifying water and sewer projects.

If the city’s application is approved, it means Jackson would receive more than $35 million in additional ARPA money to address numerous water and sewer system woes. That amount also includes $2.5 million to help cover engineering and design costs for those projects.

“This doesn’t change everything for us, but it brings us far more up-to-date than where we are,” Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said.

Among requests, the city is seeking $9,292,021 to repair and rehab filters at the O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant, as well as $1,650,000 to replace a raw water pump there. Another $1,450,000 is being sought to automate the chemical feed systems at both Curtis and the J.H. Fewell Water Treatment Plant.

“Getting the filtering system and the raw water pumps is vital for both, really, all three plants - the two sides of Curtis and Fewell,” acting City Engineer Robert Lee said. “And then general pump repair at J.H. Fewell, we’re looking at the transfer pumps and the high-service pumps that get the water from the plant out into the system. And those are museum-quality dated. They’re old.”

Jackson has two water treatment facilities, Curtis and J.H. Fewell. Curtis was constructed in the late 1980s/early 1990s and expanded in 1997. It has the capacity to treat 50 million gallons of water a day through its conventional and membrane filtration sides.

The Fewell plant is a century old and treats water through the conventional method. It is authorized to treat up to 20 million gallons a day by the Mississippi State Department of Health.

On August 29, the state announced that it was taking over operations at Curtis after equipment failures there led to a loss of water for customers across Jackson and in Byram.

Since then, numerous repairs have been made at the facility, and clean water had been restored for all residents.

Even so, daily incident reports provided by the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency show that more work needs to be done.

Current and planned objectives for Curtis include making more repairs to the high service pumps and continuing the installation and testing of two of the facility’s raw water intake pumps.

At Fewell, objectives include repairing raw water service pumps, repairing high service pumps, and ensuring the plant can continue to produce 20 million gallons of water per day.

Federal and state officials are working with the city to determine intermediate and long-term goals for both facilities.

“We’ve got a laundry list of things that need to get done,” Council President Ashby Foote said. “This is a start on it. Now that the portal is open, I’m glad we have stuff to submit to it.”

MDEQ began accepting applications on September 1. The online portal will remain open until midnight on September 30.

In addition to water projects, Jackson is seeking funds to repair a number of sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs), rehab the West Bank Interceptor and repair a sewer collapse at Mill Street.

SSOs occur when untreated sewage leaks out of the sewer system and into the environment. Under Jackson’s sewer consent decree, the city is fined for each SSO that impacts a federal waterway.

Jackson entered into the decree with the EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice in 2012. The city is currently working with the agencies to renegotiate decree terms.

The West Bank Interceptor is a large wastewater collection line that runs along the west bank of the Pearl River. Jackson also must rehab that line as part of its decree.

As for the Mill Street collapse, it was responsible for releasing 19.7 million gallons of untreated wastewater into the environment between April 1 and July 30, according to a quarterly report submitted to the EPA.

Jackson is seeking $4,435,000 in matching funds for that project, which Lee estimates will cost around $7.9 million. “We will have to go and work under the rail yard, so there will be a higher expense there and higher engineering there because of the railroad situation,” he said.

Ward 7 Councilwoman Virgi Lindsay thanked Lee for including the project, saying a major housing project likely cannot move forward until it’s completed.

“I know there are other problems in the city, and this was going to be costly and complicated,” she said. “But, as you know, we did a rezoning there to allow for the Gulf States Foundation to come in and build some houses right there, and they don’t think they can really get going until we resolve that sewer issue. So, I appreciate you making that a priority.”

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