‘Fish, clams, mussels... tree branches’ are reasons behind Jackson’s recent loss in water pressure

Jackson Public Works Director discusses water crisis

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Jackson Public Works Director Dr. Charles Williams discussed recent setbacks in the city’s efforts to restore water following the February winter storms.

This time, the cause was not bad weather, but debris that had accumulated on the raw water screens at the O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant.

At a Wednesday press conference, Williams announced that private contractors had been called to the plant to clean those screens after the sprayers quit working and the screens got clogged.

“The raw water screens were not able to bring in water, so we had to shut down the conventional side for today and get some cleaning done,” he said.

The screens act as an initial filter for the water brought into the plant from the Barnett Reservoir.

Williams said it likely was clogged by “fish, clams, mussels, probably tree branches,” and other large items that came in when the water is pumped in. Because the sprayers were not working, those items could not be removed, causing the blockage.

“The inability for us to bring water into the plant is why you are seeing low water pressure,” he said. “We have contractors on-site to make the repairs that are needed ... Once they get those cleaned, we should be back to fully operational.”

Williams hopes the work is completed by around 6 p.m. Wednesday, and that pressure can again begin to build.

The news comes as about 10,000 customers in South and West Jackson are still without water, and as customers in other parts of the city, like Fondren, again experience a loss in water pressure as a result of the problems at the plant.

“We made some very good gains this week,” Williams said. “It’s very disappointing to see the screens go down.”

The city’s efforts to restore water have been centered on rebuilding pressure in the water system. That pressure is measured by pounds of water per-square-inch or PSI. The higher the pressure, the better water service is throughout the city.

Previously, Williams said that PSI needed to be at 90 at the Curtis plant for water to be fully restored. Following February’s storms, the pressure at Curtis fell to around 37 PSI, affecting water service for nearly 43,000 customers.

As of Tuesday, the city had made significant progress in restoring that pressure, with PSI at Curtis back into the mid-80s.

However, much of that progress was wiped out beginning Tuesday night, when the screens clogged.

“If we’re not able to bring water through those screens because they’re not operational, it limits our capacity to treat (water) and put it in the distribution system,” Williams explained. “It is very important for us to get those back online.”

Williams said public works learned of the problem Tuesday night and immediately got to work. However, the initial effort to fix the problems was unsuccessful.

“The alarm went off and we tried to make some corrective measures,” he said. “Our maintenance crews couldn’t do it, so that’s why a contractor was called in to assist.”

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