EPA cites Jackson for failing to repair water plant following April fire

Electrical fire shuts down water plant, advisory issued for all surface water connections
Electrical fire shuts down water plant, advisory issued for all surface water connections(WLBT)
Published: Jan. 28, 2022 at 10:08 AM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Jackson has 45 days to tell the EPA how and when it will repair damage caused by a fire that broke out last April at the O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant.

This week, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a notice of noncompliance to the city for failing to repair or replace a damaged electrical panel at the plant.

In addition to telling EPA when and how repairs will be made, the city also must meet with the federal regulatory agency to “show cause why the EPA should not initiate legal proceedings” against the city as a result.

The notice comes about nine months after a fire broke out at the O.B. Curtis plant, shutting down the plant’s high-service pumps.

The fire took place in one control panel, but as a precaution, the city had to temporarily shut down the entire system and issue a boil water notice because of the loss of pressure.

During a November 8, 2021 inspection of the facility, “the pumps remained out of service, with no target date by the city to put the pumps back into service,” the letter states. “The loss of the pumps has caused multiple elevated tanks to be low or empty and has caused certain areas of the distribution system to have sustained low water pressure.”

Currently, hundreds of customers in South Jackson are experiencing low water pressure due to a series of main breaks and operational issues at the water plant.

“Low-pressure and loss of pressure in a drinking water distribution system may cause a net movement of water from outside the pipe to the inside through cracks, breaks or joints in the distribution system,” the letter reads.

“Backsiphonage occurs when pressure is lost in pipes, creating a negative pressure and a partial vacuum, which pulls water from a contaminated source outside the pipe not the treated, potable water inside the pipe. This creates a suitable environment for bacteriological contamination and other disease-causing organisms, including E. coli, to enter the water distribution system downstream... which is then delivered to users.”

The Mississippi State Department of Health issued a significant deficiency report on December 14, identifying the failure to make the repairs.

The report required Jackson to provide MSDH with a corrective action plan and timeframes for making the repairs by January 14.

Jackson had not provided that action plan by the date of the EPA notice.

WLBT has reached out to the city and is waiting to hear back.

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