Miss. capital city agrees to improve sewer system

November 20, 2012 GMT

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi’s capital city will pay hundreds of millions of dollars to improve its water system to prevent the overflow of raw sewage, under a proposed consent decree announced Tuesday by federal and state officials.

The deal comes after the city released 2.8 billion gallons of minimally treated sewage into the Pearl River system over the last four years.

Authorities have been pushing for years for the city of Jackson to meet standards of the federal Clean Water Act. The decree was announced by the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Quality. It will be open for public comments for 30 days before it takes effect.


Jackson officials said in early October that the city would spend about $400 million to improve the water and sewer system as part of the agreement with federal and state authorities. The city also will pay a civil penalty of $437,916.

Jackson must develop plans to improve management, operation and maintenance of its sewer system. It will have to prevent raw sewage from bypassing its largest wastewater treatment facility — a particular problem during heavy rainfall.

The Justice Department said in a news release that assistance will be available to residents to repair sewer connections in low-income areas where overflows of untreated sewage have occurred.

Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said the overflow of raw sewage can hurt people’s health and damage the environment.

“Today’s settlement will lead to improvements in the management of wastewater overflows, which will reduce water pollution and benefit the Jackson community for years to come,” Giles said.

Mississippi DEQ director Trudy Fisher said the state agency will continue to work with the city on making the wastewater treatment system better.

“We are hopeful this settlement will result in a better quality of life for the city’s citizens and an improvement in water quality for the Pearl River and surrounding streams,” Fisher said.

Federal officials have reached similar Clean Water Act agreements with several other city or county governments, including New Orleans; Memphis and Nashville, Tenn.; Atlanta and DeKalb County, Ga.; and Mobile and Jefferson County, Ala.