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City leaders speak publicly about causes of latest boil water notices, conservation notice

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) – On Thursday, Jackson city leaders addressed why they were relatively out of sight during the city’s latest water crisis.

A press conference was held at Jackson City Hall on Thursday afternoon to give residents an update on the city’s latest water problem.

The conference comes about two weeks after the June 24 city-wide boiling water notice was issued and more than two weeks after the June 21 media briefing to address questions about the water conservation notice issued that day.

This is the first time leaders have spoken publicly since the Mississippi State Department of Health issued a notice for its own citywide boiling water for Jackson on June 30.

[Click here to watch the full press conference.]

Meanwhile, due to recent problems, the EPA is requesting documents to determine whether the city is complying with national primary drinking water regulations.

“When the state issued a boiling water notice, we were really trying to figure out what requirements we had to meet, and if and when we would be able to meet those requirements to take up the boiling water notice,” said Chief of Staff Safia. Omari. “It simply came to our notice then [the public] Saying, ‘I think, I think, I think.’ We wanted to let people know when we had certain information to provide. “

“So, if things stay the same, and we’re still under boil water notice and we’re still delivering water, we don’t see the need to do a press briefing.”

Omari said the situation changed Thursday morning when the state allowed Jackson to begin water testing.

If the city has two consecutive clean samples within a 48-hour period, the boil notice may be withdrawn.

“While we certainly can’t be committed to a specific timeline on this, we hope that the notice of well water … can be lifted into the surface water system before tomorrow and Saturday,” Omari said.

Omri led the meeting. Mayor Chokway Antar Lumumba was absent. Omari said the city’s top elected leader was in Washington, working to get federal funding to help solve the city’s water problem.

For the first time on Thursday, officials addressed what caused the city’s latest waste problems, which began June 16 with an ammonia leak at the OB Curtis water treatment plant. Just a few days later, Jackson issued a water conservation notice on June 21st.

“When our ammonia leaked, it reduced our production because we had to fix the leak. In doing so, our tanks fell under normal operating pressure, and so we had to do some sort of work to lift these tanks, ”said Mary Carter, deputy director of water operations.

After we received a tip from an anonymous source, WLBT first reported the water leak on June 27. The city later confirmed that the leak had led to notice of water and a reduction in pressure.

At the time of the incident, 200 gallons of ammonia leaked into the atmosphere and the plant had to be emptied.

Rumors have spread that some employees have fallen ill as a result of the leak. Omari did not know if any staff members were affected by the leak, and said he could not talk about it because of HIPPA regulations.

Jackson leaders did not acknowledge the leak prior to our report and did not cite it as a reason for issuing the June 21 water conservation notice.

In fact, in a press release related to the Conservation Adviser, the city only hinted at an expected “increase in water demand as a result of the average temperature forecast for the next few days.”

Jackson says people need to conserve water because of the high demand during hot weather.  No ...
Jackson says people need to conserve water because of the high demand during hot weather. No mention of an ammonia leak is included in the release of the city.(WLBT)

There was no mention of the leak when the notice was issued on June 24. In that press release, the city simply explained that “there were mechanical problems with the filtration equipment at the plant, which was met with higher demand than usual due to prolonged high temperatures,” causing the pressure in the system to drop below 65 pounds per square foot. Inches

Omari Nagar has struggled to explain why the leak was not made public. “I don’t know in what context we told you that, right. All we can do is repair it, ”he said. “We issued a water conservation notice because we knew we would have to reduce water production, and we knew water use would increase with the heat wave.”

“We have issued water conservation notices, but it was not enough to keep the pressure at an acceptable level and protect our tanks from erosion,” he added.

The Environmental Protection Agency mentioned the leak in a recent letter to Mayor and former City Council President Virgie Lindsay.

According to the letter, the leak “disrupted treatment for more than two days” and was one of several reasons for which a notice of preservation was issued.

The EPA is demanding documents related to the latest water problem with the city of Jackson.
The EPA is demanding documents related to the latest water problem with the city of Jackson.(WLBT)

The city also contributed to OB Curtis’ low production levels due to “several conventional filter downtime, inconsistencies in membrane train operation, and inefficient condition of High Services Pump # 2.”

The city issued a June 21 reservation notice. However, as of June 24, conservation requests have done little to address the city’s water problem, storage tank levels have eroded, and system pressure remains at 68 psi.

As a result boiling water notice was issued. MSDH followed its own citywide boil notice on 30 June.

MSDH has imposed its notice “due to the high opacity level in the sample,” a city press release said.

Turbidity is when water becomes cloudy. As the water becomes more cloudy, water treatment chemicals can kill all the pathogens that may be present when water is brought into the treatment facilities.

The city has been blamed for the high pollution on the lime slurry used for water purification.

“There are two chemicals we want to use to maintain our pH,” Carter said. “And one chemical was soda ash. Another chemical is lime slurry. The ash process … is not working now and we are using lime slurry. So our operators need to make sure they are using the right amount of lime slurry so that the inconvenience does not exceed our limits. ”

MSDH allowed Jackson to resume sampling on Thursday, when levels of instability stabilized and stress levels increased.

The city has had problems with the Curtis plant for years. These problems came to an end last year when the city council approved an EPA administrative order with the EPA to bring the plant in compliance with federal law.

Among the requirements, Jackson will have to bring stuffing levels to both plants. However, on Thursday, Omari said the city still lacks about 12 workers between both Curtis and the JH Fowel water treatment plant.

“We’re mainly talking about OB Curtis, but between Curtis and Fowell, we have at least 12 vacancies and we need to have 24,” Omari said. “As I said before, we are bringing in contractors, as well as trying to hire operators using rural water resources so that we do not continue to suffer from a shortage of these staff.”

Seven days after Jackson received the letter, the EPA has been sending documents to the city regarding the boiled water notice. It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post.

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