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Lumumba says ‘no definitive timeline’ in restoring water service

Updated: Feb. 18, 2021 at 12:40 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba recently discussed the city’s challenges with its water system, following the week’s winter weather.

He hopes the city’s water treatment plants can be back to full capacity by the weekend, but said he was unsure if that would happen.

Many Jackson residents are without water and/or power and roads are impassable in many areas, as a result of the winter storms that moved through earlier this week.

Approximately 43,000 households currently have no or low water pressure.

“I owe you honesty. I owe you truth. We do not have a definitive timeline for when water will be restored in the tanks,” Lumumba said. “We are continuing to try to pump (water) into the tanks and continuing to try to recover.”

Meanwhile, the city is rescheduling its COVID-19 vaccination day, which had been set for Saturday, Feb. 20, in part, due to the city’s lack of water and due to the Mississippi State Health Department’s website being down.

He said he would let the public know when a new date has been scheduled.

Jackson’s water problems stem from the drop in surface water temperature at the Ross Barnett Reservoir, which has crippled equipment at the city’s O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant.

The Curtis plant treats water from the Barnett reservoir, Public Works Director Charles Williams said.

While water production there fell off, the city’s reserve tanks have been drained because more people are at home and using water, Lumumba said.

Normally, those people would be in school or at work, and would not be accessing as much water as they are at home.

Meanwhile, the mayor said the city’s water treatment chemicals are critically low, due to road conditions.

“We’re making every effort to get chemicals in from the distributors, but they are having challenges (delivering them) because they are coming from other locations.”

Williams said the city had gotten a commitment to get a resupply of alum, one of the treatment chemicals. However, it was not clear when that would be delivered.

Water treatment centers aside, Williams said Jackson likely will face additional challenges as the weather warms up. Once temperatures go up, the ground will shift and the city’s aging pipes likely will begin to burst.

“There is a high probability we will have water main breaks in the distribution system that could impact our recovery,” Public Works Director Charles Williams said.

Williams was unsure how many breaks had occurred so far, saying the snow and ice is preventing them from seeing any. He said crews were driving the city looking for evidence of them, though.

When asked if there was anything the city could have done better to prepare, the mayor reiterated the fact that the current situation was not caused by a lack of preparation, but a storm that has impacted travel, business and city operations across the Southeast.

“This is a Memphis problem. This is a Houston problem” he said. “Our infrastructure was not (designed) to endure the types of temperatures we’ve endured, especially for the timeframe we’ve endured these temperatures.”

To help accommodate residents during this time, the city is setting up distribution centers for potable and non-potable water.

Residents will be able to pick up non-potable water at fire stations throughout Jackson, except for Station 20 on Medgar Evers, Station 10 on Woodrow Wilson Avenue and Station 22 on Lakeshore Drive, Director of Constituent Services Keyshia Sanders said.

“The only thing we ask is that you bring your own container,” she said.

Officials are also planning to set up seven distribution centers to provide bottled water. The centers are slated to open Thursday, but a time had not been set. WLBT will provide more details when they become available.

Those locations will include:

  • Smith-Wills Stadium on Lakeland Drive
  • Metrocenter Mall
  • JPD Precinct One, 810 Cooper Rd.
  • Vergy P. Middleton Community Center, Flag Chapel Road
  • Jackson Police Officers Training Academy, 3000 St. Charles Road
  • Willowwood Community Center, 229 Lake Cove Dr.
  • City of Byram Fire Station

Lumumba expects the potable distribution centers will open Feb. 18.

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