Report: Winter storms caused $18.7M in damage to water systems in Jackson, Hinds Co.

Report: Winter storms caused $18.7M in damage to water systems in Jackson, Hinds Co.
City of Jackson says water has been restored to most homes

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Preliminary reports show Jackson’s water system bore the brunt of the damage caused by February’s winter storms.

In mid-February, winter weather ripped across the state, bringing with it freezing rain and sub-freezing temperatures.

Those conditions caused water and power outages across Mississippi, including in Jackson, which saw the production at its main water treatment plant get cut by nearly half.

With production cut, water tanks were drained and pressure in the distribution system fell. As a result, customers eventually found themselves without water.

At the height of the crisis, an estimated 43,000 connections in the capital city were reporting low or no water pressure. Late last week, about 5,000 customers were still without water.

According to preliminary reports, an estimated $18.7 million in damage to water infrastructure was done in Hinds County, with most of that being done to water control systems in Jackson, according to Malary White, spokeswoman for the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

In all, more than 30 counties reported damage to public infrastructure following the storms, bringing the combined amount needed for repairs to $22.6 million.

MEMA was still combing through the data Monday.

Agents from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) were expected to begin damage assessments Tuesday.

“The numbers have to be validated by FEMA,” White said. “They have to say, ‘yes, you did get this damage (from the storms),’ to qualify for public assistance.”

Typically, FEMA will provide disaster recovery grants covering 75 percent of repair costs. The state usually is required to pick up the rest of the tab.

The amount submitted by Hinds County is less than a fifth of the $107 million the city is seeking in state and federal funding to help restore its water system.

The mayor sent a letter and an engineer’s assessment to Gov. Tate Reeves on March 3 outlining the city’s needs.

“These improvements are critical to our efforts to ensure that our residents are not deprived of clean water again,” the mayor wrote.

The council also voted to ask the state for another $60 million to build additional storage tanks in South and West Jackson and Byram to help improve capacity in those areas.

Hinds County, for instance, had to show that it sustained a minimum of $954,159 in damages from the storm.

It was unclear how much of the county’s request would be covered by the feds.

“One of the factors FEMA looks at is deferred maintenance and this is where it could get tricky,” White said previously. “FEMA will want to know if the pipes and roads were functioning in great condition before a disaster even happened and did the disaster itself damage these or were these infrastructures damaged beforehand.”

Officials with Hinds County Emergency Management couldn’t be reached for comment.

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