Jackson is asking for $35.6 million from the state’s infrastructure program to help fund water and sewer projects

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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) – Jackson’s request for state ARPA funds shows the city would use the extra money to target raw water pumps at its main water treatment plant, as well as a transmission line sewer which is a major source of its overflowing sanitary sewer.

Last week, the city submitted its application for funding to the Mississippi Municipality and County Water Infrastructure Grant Program (MCWI).

City is seeking more than $35.6 million in matching funds to meet priority water and sewer needs, including $1,650,000 to replace aging raw water pumps at the OB Curtis Water Treatment Plant and $7,500,000 to repair the West Bank interceptor.

MCWI was created by the Mississippi Legislature earlier this year to provide local governments with matching funds to make repairs to water, sewer and drainage infrastructure. Under the terms of the program, cities and counties can receive dollar-for-dollar matching for all eligible projects they fund using American Rescue Plan Act dollars. Lawmakers set aside $450 million from the state’s ARPA to fund the work.

The deadline to apply for the first round of funding was September 30. A total of 429 cities and counties are requesting a total of $434.7 million. However, less than half of those requests will be approved, with the legislature requiring that only 40% of the $450 million be awarded in the first round.

The Curtis plant is Jackson’s main processing facility serving approximately 43,000 connections. The city hopes to replace two of the water pumps there that broke down this summer, before the city’s water crisis.

“The ability to reliably bring water from the reservoir for treatment is a necessary investment,” the city’s application reads. “Without this, residents of the surface water system and large industries such as Nissan could … experience sudden pressure loss and water outages … which happened in early August 2022, before the flooding of the Pearl River which resulted in the current water. system emergency.

After the pumps failed, the city installed back-up devices to keep water flowing into the facility. These collapsed when the Pearl River flooded, affecting water service for tens of thousands of customers.

The state stepped in to help stabilize the facility, an effort that included repairing failing pumps. But even with those repairs, Jackson’s request says the devices should be removed. “Given the age of the equipment and the lack of system redundancy at the plant…the pumps need to be replaced to [ensure] a stable water supply,” the application reads.

The city is seeking funding to replace the raw water pumps at OB Curtis.(WLBT)

The Curtis plant was built in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It was expanded in the early 2000s. Pumps needing replacement have been in place since the facility was built.

Several engineers who spoke to WLBT said the pumps had likely exceeded their expected lifespan, which is between 20 and 30 years with general maintenance.

Jackson is also asking for $8,800,000 to refurbish filters on the conventional and membrane filtration sides of the Curtis plant, $1,450,000 to convert manual chemical feeds to automated feeds at the two processing plants, $8,798 $000 to replace filters and complete construction of a 48 inch water transmission line in Fewell and $2,750,000 to repair and rehabilitate aging pumps in Fewell.

Fewell, which is located in the curve of the aqueduct, is the city’s backup treatment facility, which is licensed to treat up to 20 million gallons of water per day. The plant was allowed to process up to 30 million gallons per day during the water crisis.

However, the pumps in this facility also appear to be running out of steam.

City documents show an inspection of the pumps there in September 2022 found one was ruled out for future use ‘due to mechanical and structural issues, while the other needed repair or failed. would wear out in a few years.”

Meanwhile, the “four smaller pumps appear to be original equipment from the 1940s except for a few parts”.

“In order to extend the life of JH Fewell, the raw water intake pumps must be replaced,” the city’s request states.

Jackson is also asking for $7.5 million to carry out additional repairs along the West Bank Interceptor, a major sewer line that runs along the west bank of the Pearl River from northeast Jackson to the factory. Savanna Street Wastewater Treatment Plant, and $4,681,520 to repair a broken water main. under N. Mill Street.

Sewer pump in Mill Street.
Sewer pump in Mill Street.(Guardian of the Pearl River)

WLBT reported that between April 1 and June 30 of this year, nearly 20 million gallons of untreated sewage was released into the environment due to the main rupture and pump failure. sewer at Mill Street, a major violation of the city’s sewer consent decree.

As for the West Bank Interceptor, the line “has a number of locations that need rehabilitation” to reduce the inflow from the Pearl River. A number of manholes also need to be raised and waterproofed, also to prevent infiltration when the river level rises to flood level.

Council Speaker Ashby Foote says even if the city’s requests are approved, Jackson will have to keep the repairs/replacements going after the work is complete.

“I think at the end of the day, you go back to early July, the EPA was more concerned with people than money,” he said. “So it’s a combination. We cannot forget the human capital which is essential for having successful businesses.

Documents obtained by WLBT showed that understaffing threatened to shut down the city’s sewage treatment plants and forced employees to work hundreds of overtime hours for short periods.

EPA officials said a staffing shortage likely contributed to the city’s many reported drinking water violations in recent years, including the winter 2021 water crisis and numerous quality issues. some water.

Jackson’s MCWI app shows the city is working with the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency to bring in a third-party company to resume operations at the two treatment plants.

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