Jackson public works director says city is making progress in restoring water

Charley Williams, Interim Public Works Director
Charley Williams, Interim Public Works Director(City of Jackson)
Updated: Feb. 19, 2021 at 11:44 AM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Jackson’s water treatment plants are back up and running following this week’s winter weather.

However, city officials are still not saying when water service will fully be restored for the 43,000 households currently with no or low water pressure.

The city’s water operations were crippled earlier this week when wintry weather ripped across the state, bringing with it sub-freezing temperatures and dropping the temperature of surface water at the Barnett Reservoir.

The frigid temperatures outside, coupled with the lower water temperatures, ground operations to a halt at the O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant, which provides clean, drinkable water to the vast majority of the city’s home and businesses.

Because water couldn’t be treated, the system’s reserve tanks were quickly depleted, leaving customers with little to no water.

On Friday, Curtis was back up and running and water pressure in the distribution system had been restored to about 50 pounds per square inch, said Public Works Director Charles Williams.

At 50 PSI, most residents still won’t see much of a difference at the faucet. That’s why Williams said that number has to be higher.

“The goal is to get that up,” he said. “If we can get it up to 90 PSI at Curtis and 80 PSI at Fewell, water service should be restored.”

Fewell is the J.H. Fewell Water Treatment Plant, located next to the waterworks curve.

It, too, was impacted by the cold weather. But the city had to slow down production there because it was running low on treatment chemicals.

“We got low on alum, but we were able to get a shipment in around 2 p.m. Thursday,” Williams said. “Fewell is starting to regain traction.”

Homes and businesses across the state have experienced water woes as a result of the winter weather.

In many cases, water pressure dropped when treatment plants lost power.

Residents in Crystal Springs began losing water pressure Wednesday night, after a power outage occurred at its water wells.

Meanwhile, in Natchez, the city’s water treatment system continued operating at capacity, but could not keep up as pipes across the city burst.

“This has tapped our water system. This has tapped our water supply,” Mayor Dan Gibson said in a statement on Facebook. “It will take several days for an acceptable water supply and pressure to be restored.”

In both cases, residents are being asked to check their homes for leaks and to have their water service turned off if any are found.

In Jackson, there are glimmers of hope.

During his interview with WLBT, Williams opened an email informing him water service had been restored at the Governor’s Mansion.

On Feb. 18, Gov. Tate Reeves said on social media that the mansion was without running water.

The mansion, as well as much of downtown Jackson, is served by the Fewell plant.

Curtis serves much of the rest of the city, except for those on the well system.

However, there were still challenges. Public works was planning to issue a boil water notice for well water customers Friday, Williams said.

Williams was also bracing for the potential of burst pipes. As the ground warms up and shifts, the city’s aging water distribution lines will likely burst, causing pressure in the system to again drop.

Following severe winter weather in 2010, more than 200 mains burst. In 2018, an even more severe winter storm lead to about 300 burst mains.

Right now, though, the city is focused on restoring the pressure and bringing its treatment plants up to full capacity.

“As PSI increases, we’ll start to see areas in the system having their water restored,” he said. “There is still no definitive timeline – it’s all based on the ability to increase PSI.

“That’s how we gauge our recovery – get the PSI in the system to increase.”

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