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Henifin to oversee Jackson’s...

Henifin to oversee Jackson’s sewer system

By: Sarah Ulmer - July 27, 2023

Third-party administrator Ted Henifin speaks at the Two Mississippi Museums in Jackson on January 27, 2023.

The current third-party manager over Jackson’s water system, Ted Henifin, will now also oversee the sewer system after federal judge makes appointment.

On Wednesday, a federal judge entered an order naming the current third-party manager over the city of Jackson’s water system to now also oversee the municipality’s sewer system.

According to a statement by the U.S. Justice Department, in coordination with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and the City of Jackson, an agreement has been reached in order to address the issues found in the capital city’s sewer system.

The agreement handed down by U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate appoints Ted Henifin as the interim third-party manager over the sewer system. He will remain in that position until the parties negotiate modifications to the consent decree.

Wingate indicated in May that it was likely he would also appoint Henifin over the sewer system.

“Under today’s agreement, expedited measures will be taken to address the City of Jackson’s deteriorating sewer infrastructure and inadequate operation and maintenance, which have caused residents and businesses to endure sewage discharges that threaten public health and the environment,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This action shows the continuing commitment of the Justice Department to seek justice, health and safety for the residents of Jackson, Mississippi, and to prioritize enforcement in the communities most burdened by environmental harm.”

Principal Deputy Assistant of the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, Larry Starfield said the move is an effort to continue to protect the health and safety of Jackson residents with new oversight programs.

The order comes after the city failed to make significant progress on the sewer system after a 2013 settlement in federal court. Because the system continued to deteriorate over the last 10 years it resulted in additional violations with the Clean Water Act (CWA), Mississippi Air and Water Pollution Control Law (MAWPCL) and the city’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES).

The agreement will require Henifin to implement certain programs regarding the system’s condition, operations and maintenance. He will have the authority to operate and maintain the system, implement capital improvements, and begin or continue programs to post signage about sewer overflows.

At a recent hearing in Judge Wingate’s courtroom, it was said there are still over 250 sewer leaks in the city that have not been addressed.

Henifin has been over Jackson’s water system since late 2022. In that time, he and his team have stabilized the system and assured the public that the water is safe to drink. He has done much of this through JXN Water, a company he established to carryout the work.

Some Jackson officials, including Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, continue to dispute Henifin’s appointment to oversee the water system. In a recent federal hearing, they suggested there is a lack of transparency from Henifin. In an unusual move, Judge Wingate issued a response after the status hearings. Wingate expressed his disapproval of those who came to speak against Henifin.

“This court expected the speaker-attendees to come armed with quantifiable facts, fair assessments of progress thus far, and reasonable expectations for the foreseeable future. Not so,” Wingate wrote. “Overall, the presentations from Henifin’s critics were either uninformed, short-sighted, clearly political, well-intentioned but naive, or racist.”

Wingate went on to compliment the work Henifin has done in the city since his arrival.

About the Author(s)
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Sarah Ulmer

Sarah is a Mississippi native, born and raised in Madison. She is a graduate of Mississippi State University, where she studied Communications, with an emphasis in Broadcasting and Journalism. Sarah’s experience spans multiple mediums, including extensive videography with both at home and overseas, broadcasting daily news, and hosting a live radio show. In 2017, Sarah became a member of the Capitol Press Corp in Mississippi and has faithfully covered the decisions being made by leaders on some of the most important issues facing our state. Email Sarah: