Thursday, May 27, 2021
If approved, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality will disburse a $31,683,000 loan from the Water Pollution Control Revolving Fund Loan Program to help the City of Jackson resolve many of the sanitary sewer overflow problems the capital city faces, Public Works Director Charles Williams told the city council on Tuesday, May 25.
"We have identified several areas in the city, as it relates to collection systems that need to be addressed," Williams said at the council work session Monday. "We have identified several areas throughout the city where the evaluation process needs to be done. As you know, we came to the council with an order for (Compliance EnviroSystems) to go through and do some cleaning in the city, and they have found that a lot of our sewer mains are in bad shape."
Williams said the needed rehabilitation work will start after mapping the areas of need. "If we are able to get this loan, this money will fund any type of rehab work throughout those areas that we identified," he added.
The next day, the council authorized the City to apply for the loan. The resolution referenced a 2013 consent decree of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and MDEQ, which required that the "City determine the repairs and improvements necessary to bring the wastewater collection system into compliance with its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit."
Williams said at the council meeting Tuesday that the loan is necessary because the City's revenue stream is low. "Ideally, we want to have revenues that are coming in order to perform this work, but we're having to utilize (state revolving fund) loans in order to perform the work that is needed," he said. "We have laid out areas within the city in order for them to address, and it will be done through phases, which is about six or seven phases."
The public works director said the $30-million loan will be for phases one and two of the needed work. The City will hire consultants to develop a plan to address the problems in the sewer collection system after they have done CCTV video footage of the sewer mains and cleaning.
8,000 Jackson Households Not Getting Bills
Public Works Deputy Director Carla Dazet told the council Tuesday that the City has 8,000 "stranded bills," indicating the number of homes not getting water bills because of problems in the billing system.
"We put them all on a flat rate in January of last year," she said. "And we're bringing them off as we get (new) meters up and running. We are moving towards new software, which will completely take away the stranded bill." She said that will start in the next few months.
"We should be going live in July (or) 1st of August (with the new system). And it's got a verification system, which is unlike what we have now. So there will be no more stranded bills. They (customers) still may not agree with (the bills). It may be estimated, (but) we'll still be able to work with them under certain circumstances. But everyone will be getting a bill," Dazet added.
Dazet said the Water Sewer Business Administration office is not turning people's water off if they don't pay their bills. "Our collection rate is about 85%," she said. "But we have 14,000 customers that are not (current on their bill payment, but) are getting a bill."
“(The mayor) did ask that we get a safety net in place before we start doing (cutting water off),” she added.
Email story tips to city/county reporter Kayode Crown at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @kayodecrown.