Lumumba: No reason to believe the fire at water treatment plant was intentional

Lumumba: No reason to believe the fire at water treatment plant was intentional
Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba at a previous press conference. (Source: WLBT)

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said he had no reason to believe that the electrical fire that broke out at the city’s main water treatment plant was intentionally caused.

Water service for about 43,000 customers was temporarily shut down as a result.

“We have no reason to think there was any nefarious activity,” Lumumba said. “We’re still at the preliminary stage. What led to that, we’re going to have our fire department, electrical contractor to review and move from there ... and provide you more information as that becomes available.”

Public Works Director Charles Williams said the fire is still under investigation.

“We don’t believe anyone came in and started this fire or anything that would lead to that,” he said. “What we do know is that ... something caused that electrical fire. We won’t know until we pull the box out and have our electrical contractor go through it and have a discussion with Entergy.”

“All that has to be investigated,” Williams said.

As of Monday, water pressure had been restored to about 85 pounds per square inch, meaning that most customers who were without water Friday now have service restored.

The mayor, meanwhile, said that the electrical fire is another example of how Jackson is still facing a water crisis.

“Even today, as water is restored and the boil water notice is lifted, I consider us to be still in a state of crisis,” he said. “We’re still dealing with an aged … still dealing with a system that is part of a legacy city.”

The mayor said Jackson is working with “what we believe to be a strong team to help us go after a lot of the infrastructure dollars that we believe will funnel down from Washington,” he said.

Jackson is set to receive millions from the American Rescue Plan.

It also could receive millions more through other bills making their way through Congress.

Earlier this spring, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith has introduced S.755, which would give Jackson access to at least $72 million in U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Economic Development Agency funds to help address its water needs.

And on April 29, the Senate approved the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021, which will fund loan and grant programs to help cities with infrastructure needs.

Those measures do not include federal infrastructure packages being proposed by Congressional Republicans and by the Biden administration.

Lumumba would not say which proposal he would support, only that he would work with a “coalition of the willing ... to build better, sustainable, more equitable infrastructure for all of our residents.

“I want to be the poster child for infrastructure for the nation,” he said. “If we can make our needs clear, how this impacts families, how this impacts human dignity and the needs across the city... I don’t think we can significantly say we have addressed America’s infrastructure problem (if we leave) Jackson, Miss., on the sideline.”

Announcements were also made on the parks and recreation front.

Parks Director Ison Harris said the city would be hosting a job fair from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Sykes Community Center to fill various summer positions, including lifeguards, splash pad attendance, maintenance workers to help with grass cutting, and the like.

“The temporary workers we will hire, there is a possibility they could become permanent,” he said.

Jackson also received a surprise visit from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to inspect the Jackson Zoological Park. The city passed the inspection.

With summer vacation on the horizon, the city is also extending zoo hours. Beginning May 6, the zoo will be open Sunday through Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“It’s another exciting thing that’s going on at the zoo,” Harris said. “We’re going from a shuttered zoo to (opening on the weekend) to extending it to four days ... We hope to extend it five days by the end of the summer.”

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