Production cut at Jackson’s main water treatment plant due to Pearl River flooding

Residents and business owners across the capital city reporting low or now water pressure as a result.
Mayor Lumumba discusses the impact the Pearl River has on Jackson's water production.
Mayor Lumumba discusses the impact the Pearl River has on Jackson's water production.(WLBT)
Published: Aug. 29, 2022 at 4:03 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The city of Jackson has had to cut water production at its main treatment plant due to flooding from the Pearl River.

On Monday, the Pearl crested at 35.37 feet, more than 7 feet above flood stage. As a result, operators have had to make adjustments to the treatment process and have had to cut production there as a result of the change in the water’s chemical makeup brought about by that flooding.

“Because of the river water coming into the plant, we have had to change the way we treat the water. The chemical composition of the water coming in, we [had] to figure out how to contend with the water coming in,” Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said during a Monday press conference. “It has led to the reduction of water being put out into the system, which consequently, reduces tank levels and affects, systemwide, the water pressure in the homes of our residents.”

Curtis brings in water from the reservoir. During floods, the makeup of the water changes and can have higher turbidity, more sediment, and more organic materials in it.

Some areas reporting low or no water pressure include the Broadmoor area, Fondren, and Northeast Jackson. It was unclear how long residents would experience low pressure/no pressure, but leaders said it would be at least a few days.

The news comes as the city breathes a sigh of relief in the wake of the Pearl River flooding, but as they are still facing a myriad of problems as it relates to its water service.

Jackson has been under a boil water notice since July 29, when the Mississippi State Department of Health imposed the notice on all surface water customers. In all, about 43,000 connections are impacted.

The city quit testing last week due to high levels of precipitation. This week, those tests are still on hold as officials deal with the aftermath of the Pearl River flood and work to rebuild pressure in the water system brought about by a cut in production at O.B. Curtis.

“What I liken it to is if you are drinking out of a Styrofoam cup, someone puts a hole in the bottom of it, you’re steady trying to fill it while it’s steady running out at the bottom. It’s more difficult to make it reach the top,” he said. “And so you know our cup, you know is drained and, you know, while we’re trying to fill it, we know that people will still be trying to consume it.”

Meanwhile, residents are continuing to report low water pressure as a result of broken pipes and a cut in production.

On Sunday, Byram residents told WLBT they had been without water for three days. “Since Friday morning, I haven’t been able to use my shower or flush my toilet,” resident Ryan Johnson said. “To compensate for that, I’ve had to get water out of the pool to flush my toilets.”

In the capital city, low water pressure also is being reported. “We have no water pressure at Broad Street Bakery & Cafe this morning, and if a restaurant doesn’t have water to wash hands, dishes and have an operating bathroom, it must close per Mississippi State Department of Health safe food handling rules,” restaurant owner Jeff Good reported on his social media page.

Lumumba said the city should experience some relief as water levels along the Pearl continue to drop and as less water is being released from the Barnett Reservoir.

The river level south of the reservoir went up dramatically in recent days, in part, because the Pearl River Valley Water Supply District had to release more and more water from the reservoir’s Spillway. The water had to be released to ensure the lake did not rise to 300 feet above sea level, which would have caused the Spillway dam to fail.

“The reservoir did crest early in the morning, and, so, that means that the flows coming into the reservoir were at their peak and we’re going down,” said PRV General Manager John Sigman. “This morning, we were able to reduce the flows out of the reservoir by 10,000 cubic feet per second. That’s a lot of that’s a lot of volume... By 9:30, we reduced the flows [by] another 5,000. And sometime shortly, maybe right now, we’re going to reduce the flow another 5,000.”

The lake was a little higher than 298 feet above sea level Monday afternoon. PRV typically likes to keep the level at 297 feet above sea level.

“The reservoir is still higher than it should be, but by keeping our discharge up yesterday, we were able to get half a foot off the reservoir and get it back into a semi-safe zone,” he said. “We still got some more to go before we feel real comfortable. But we will continue to reduce the outflows throughout the day and night [and] that will allow the floodplain to empty.”

Lumumba understands residents’ frustrations with the drinking water system. “I want them to know that through this event, through any event, we understand and we are compassionate about that concern, right,” he said. “We’re working diligently, whether we have a boil water notice, whether we have low water pressure, this is something that we work on every single day. And so we’re going to find a solution to it.”

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