Ammonia leak, membrane filtration problems led to citywide boil water notice, loss of water pressure

An aerial view of the O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant.
An aerial view of the O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant.(WLBT)
Published: Jun. 27, 2022 at 5:04 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - An ammonia tank leak, coupled with problems with the filtration system at the O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant led to a citywide boil water notice and a loss in water pressure last week.

Friday, the city of Jackson issued a citywide precautionary boil water notice after pressure in the city’s water distribution system dropped.

At a press conference that day, city leaders said ongoing mechanical issues with filtration equipment at the plant, combined with a higher-than-normal demand due to high temperatures, led to low water pressure in the city’s surface water and well water systems.

However, documentation obtained on the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Response Center’s website showed that the problems also resulted due to a leak at one of the Curtis plant’s ammonia tanks.

In all, about 200 gallons of ammonia were leaked. All employees working at the facility were temporarily evacuated as a result, the report states.

“We did have an ammonia leak in one of our tanks, but we quickly moved to get it repaired,” Chief Administrative Officer Louis Wright said. “We had other issues with the membrane system as well.”

Ammonia is one of the chemicals used to treat water at the facility, which draws in water from the Barnett Reservoir.

Wright, who was at a conference Monday, did not know what caused the leak.

He said the remaining ammonia had to be removed from the storage tank before repairs could be made.

Meanwhile, repairs to the membrane took three or four hours. During that time, the water level in the city’s storage tanks dropped, causing pressure in the system to fall off.

A precautionary boil water notice was issued as a result, he said, adding that the water was not unsafe to drink.

No injuries were reported as a result of the leak. Hinds County Emergency Operations, as well as the Jackson Fire Department, were contacted, the Coast Guard report shows.

Joey Perkins, director of Hinds County EOC, was unsure what caused the leak, and said his agency was contacted to assist the plant operators and fire department.

He said there was no danger to nearby neighborhoods.

The city says it will be about five days before all citizens again have normal water pressure.

If pressure continues to increase, the city will begin testing water Tuesday.

Jackson remains under a boil water and water conservation notice.

WLBT Photographer Tracey James contributed to this story.

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