Mary Carter ousted as deputy director of water operations amid Jackson’s ongoing water crisis

News comes only weeks after Carter detailed problems at the city’s main water treatment plant to 3 On Your Side.
Mary Carter speaks at a recent press conference regarding Jackson water.
Mary Carter speaks at a recent press conference regarding Jackson water.(WLBT)
Published: Sep. 9, 2022 at 3:18 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Mary Carter has been ousted as deputy director of water operations for the city of Jackson, she confirmed with WLBT.

Carter, who had been with the city for eight years, says she was fired for not participating “in the emergency thing.”

State and federal employees have been working at the O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant for days after equipment failures there led to a loss in water service for tens of thousands of customers.

The state health department issued a mandate requiring the city to cooperate with state officials deployed to help at the facility.

Carter served as deputy director of water operations for five or six years during her tenure and was a certified Class A operator. She tells WLBT she was terminated Friday. She was notified in person.

Her termination comes amid Jackson’s ongoing water crisis, caused by failures at the O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant, the city’s main facility, which serves approximately 43,000 connections.

Carter was in charge of operations at that facility, as well as the J.H. Fewell Water Treatment Plant.

Officials with the Lumumba administration declined to comment, saying it was a personnel issue.

As a deputy director, Carter serves at-will and does not have civil service commission protection.

Weeks ago, she detailed problems at the plant in an interview with 3 On Your Side and contradicted then Public Works Director Marlin King saying that the plant was fully staffed by Class A operators at all times.

A WLBT analysis of time sheets submitted to the EPA showed that the Curtis plant did not have a Class A worker on duty for approximately 153 hours during the month of June, a violation of state and federal laws.

King, who has since stepped down as public works director, said Carter filled in during those hours, but, as a deputy director, did not have to fill out time sheets like other operators. For her part, Carter said she did not work all those hours.

In late August, equipment failures at the plant cut water service for approximately 150,000 people.

On August 30, the Mississippi State Department of Health issued an order requiring the city, its public works employees, and local emergency management officials to “immediately cooperate with state response teams and contractors” deployed to the plant.

MSDH orders Jackson staffers to cooperate with state response teams deployed to O.B. Curtis.
MSDH orders Jackson staffers to cooperate with state response teams deployed to O.B. Curtis.(WLBT)

Since the crisis began, numerous details have emerged about conditions at Curtis.

The state reported on September 6 that electrical boxes there were covered by cardboard boxes, fire extinguishers were being used as door stops, and multiple handrails were missing or in need of repair.

Prior to that, on August 28, Gov. Tate Reeves said the plant failed, in large part, due to a lack of operating redundancies.

Carter says she’s unsure how she did not cooperate with state officials. She shared an email she sent to Acting Public Works Director Jordan Hillman and Acting City Engineer Robert Lee Friday afternoon, where she detailed how she had been left out of the loop during the crisis.

“Since this water emergency has been going on, I have been on the outside looking in. The only way I get information about what is going on is when I ask various people on-site. When I tried to attend the morning briefing, I am locked out,” she wrote. “As this emergency operation has progressed, the only information I have received is the daily update that the public is privy to.”

Officials with MSDH referred all questions to the city.

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