Nearly 4.7B gallons of wastewater dumped in Pearl River, court documents show

A picture of the Pearl River after it surpasses flood stage.
A picture of the Pearl River after it surpasses flood stage.(WLBT)
Published: May. 8, 2023 at 6:04 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A recent federal court filing shows nearly 4.7 billion gallons of untreated or partially treated wastewater was dumped into the Pearl River between March 1, 2020 and February 28, 2022.

Last week, attorneys provided the U.S. District Court with an update on its efforts to implement a more than decade-old sewer consent decree.

The city admitted it has made little progress in doing so, in part, due to the city’s billing challenges, shrinking tax base and global pandemic.

Even so, attorneys for the city say Jackson has spent $136 million on capital expenses from 2013 to June 2021 to fulfill decree requirements, including $30.5 million at the Savanna Street Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The city entered into the decree in 2012 to bring its sewer system into compliance with federal water quality law. Since then, costs to repair the decree have skyrocketed to more than $960 million.

Attorneys say since November, the city, state and federal government have “renewed their efforts to address... noncompliance with the [consent decree], including negotiations focused on prioritizing short-term work” at Savanna and along its collection and transmission system.

Court documents show even with the $136 million spent, the city is out of compliance in numerous areas.

Between March 1, 2020 and February 28, 2022, more than 460 sanitary sewer overflows were reported, releasing approximately 111 million gallons of waste into the Pearl.

Those overflows, also called SSOs, occur when untreated wastewater escapes the sewer system and enters the environment.

Under terms of the consent decree, Jackson is fined for each SSO that reaches the Pearl River or one of its tributaries.

Sanitary Sewer Overflows will result in a fine under Jackson's sewer consent decree.
Sanitary Sewer Overflows will result in a fine under Jackson's sewer consent decree.(WLBT)

Another 13 SSOs occurred along the West Bank Interceptor, releasing another 95 million gallons into the river.

The West Bank Interceptor is a major sewer transmission line that runs along the west bank of the Pearl from Northeast Jackson to the Savanna plant.

The greatest amount of untreated or partially treated wastewater was released into the river via the Savanna facility.

During that time, court records indicated 4,465,590,000 gallons were released during 27 prohibited bypasses at the South Jackson facility.

As a result of the bypasses and SSOs, the river and many of its tributaries have been under a contact advisory for years.

“Currently, there are approximately 256 known SSO locations in the city... requiring immediate emergency repair, yet the city has been unable to quickly respond to or rehabilitate the vast majority of them,” court records state. “Accordingly, many millions of dollars of stipulated penalties against the city have accrued.”

Want more WLBT news in your inbox? Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.

See a spelling or grammar error in our story? Please click here to report it and include the headline of the story in your email.