More than two weeks into it, Lumumba not sure when state-imposed boil water notice would be lifted

Published: Aug. 15, 2022 at 2:19 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The state-imposed boil water notice on all Jackson’s surface-water connections continues to be in force, more than two weeks after it was imposed.

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba was unsure when the notice would be lifted, citing continued issues with sampling.

“What we have seen is a pattern where one day they come back clear, and the next day, out of the 120 we have one sample place that is not coming up clear,” he said.

For the notice to be lifted, Jackson must have two consecutive days of clean water samples. City technicians take samples from 120 sample points across the city.

Lumumba said that a sample taken from one point each day comes back with higher levels of turbidity, meaning the notice remains.

“That is an interesting scenario to us. And it is a bit perplexing to the people at the water treatment facility based on the history of sampling,” he said. “But we want to work with the Department of Health and see how we can get to a place where we can not only pull good samples, but move in alignment with one another, so we look forward to continuing our work with them.”

The mayor did not have the specific site where the troubled samples come from but said they’re not necessarily from the same spot each time.

However, he said what is concerning is that each day it’s only one sample that keeps the state from lifting its notice.

“It’s one out of 120 samples that are pooled across the city. It’s consistently been around one, one site or one sample out of the 120 that comes up poor, which is a little strange,” he said. “I’m not alleging anything, but we want to get to the bottom of, you know, what we are seeing.”

Mississippi State Department of Health imposed a boil water notice on all customers served by the O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant on July 29, a day after samples taken showed turbidity levels of 1.0 to 2.5 units, MSDH’s website states. The standard for water turbidity is 0.3 units per sample.

Turbidity is the cloudiness of water. The higher the level of that cloudiness, the more chances it contains disease-causing pathogens that were not killed during the treatment process.

Lumumba previously objected to the notice, saying turbidity was higher because Jackson is using lime slurry to treat the water, rather than soda ash.

The mayor is hoping the problem can be sorted out by moving the testing sites. “I believe that they have approved the new sites, but it’s a more formal process that has to continue. They are going to have to maintain the sites at the treatment facilities that we have been using traditionally, but they did sanction, or agree, to the new sites, and we look forward to being able to install those very soon.”

WLBT has reached out to MSDH and is awaiting comment.

Meanwhile, Jackson continues to struggle with low water pressure, thanks two two pump failures at the Curtis plant. The pumps are raw water pumps that pull in water from the Barnett Reservoir for treatment.

Lumumba said he expected at least one of them to have been repaired/reinstalled last week. However, he said crews discovered “additional needs within those pumps.”

“I am being told that the timeline for the installation of one of those pumps, they expect... they feel pretty firm and optimistic about the installation of one of those pumps by the end of this week,” he said. “And so that should help improve the water pressure.”

The mayor did not know how much the pump repairs would cost. He also was not sure exactly why only one pump would be completed this week.

“Both pumps they believe can be repaired. It’s just the first pump, that I spoke of being installed last week, I guess the challenges with that pump are not as significant or they don’t require as many parts as the other one does,” he said. “And, so, that is why that one is slated to be reinstalled this week.”

“These are old pumps. Just as we have challenges with our pumps, we have challenges with our raw water screens, we have challenges with the conventional versus the membrane side... there is a litany of challenges within our water treatment facility.”

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