Forest Hill teen commended for speaking up at water town hall meeting

Corey Chapman Jr. asked what people could do to help address Jackson's water problems at a...
Corey Chapman Jr. asked what people could do to help address Jackson's water problems at a Wednesday town hall.(WLBT)
Published: Dec. 8, 2022 at 1:58 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A South Jackson teen was commended Wednesday night for speaking out about Jackson’s ongoing water crisis.

Corey Chapman Jr., a junior at Forest Hill High School, took the opportunity at Wednesday’s meeting to ask the mayor and recently appointed water system manager on how people could best contribute to their plans to resolve the city’s water issues.

Chapman was one of the few, if not the only, teens in attendance at the meeting, and said he was prompted to speak after the most recent water crisis forced his school to go to online learning for several weeks due to a lack of running water.

The high school, as well as the surrounding neighborhoods, were among the hardest hit areas by the water crisis, which was caused when equipment failures at the city’s main treatment plant left tens of thousands without water.

“We were out of school for a nice bit of time, and then we had to go to another school,” he said. “I just wanted to see how to contribute to help move this process forward.”

Chapman received a round of applause for his question, as well as strong words of encouragement from Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba and Ted Henifin, the interim third-party manager put in charge of the city’s water system under a federal court order.

“People need to hear more [on] what it’s like to be a student and have these interruptions take place,” Lumumba said. “I am a proud JPS product... I maybe didn’t have books to take home to study all the time... But I certainly didn’t deal with what you’re dealing with... having to move to another school or [having] interruptions because of water.”

For his part, Henifin urged the teen to practice conservation and tell others to do the same.

“Tell your parents, tell your friends, we need to conserve water,” he said. “That’s one thing you can do when you leave here today.”

Jackson has been under a water conservation advisory since June. The advisory, which was issued by the Mississippi State Department of Health, urges people to, among other things, avoid watering lawns between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., refrain from washing cars, and refrain from washing partial loads of clothes and dishes.

He also urged Chapman to report water main breaks when he sees them.

“I’m not trying to be offensive, [but] I think we’ve gotten complacent about water leaks. You’ve seen so many of them that you now just take them for granted,” he said. “They become part of the background... So, I challenge everyone. We’re looking for where the water’s going. We’re losing a lot of water.”

“If we can find where the leaks are, we would be able to produce less water at the plants... So, if you and your friends are out and you see a leak, call 311,” Henifin continued. “We need everybody’s eyes looking for these things, because we’re losing a lot.”

Jackson city leaders host a town hall to discuss the future of the city's water system under a...
Jackson city leaders host a town hall to discuss the future of the city's water system under a recent court order.(WLBT)

The meeting came about a week after a federal judge signed an “interim stipulated order” placing control of the city’s water system until control of an “interim third-party manager.”

The order, meanwhile, requires the ITPM to begin implementing a “priority project list,” which includes staffing up and making repairs at the city’s two water treatment facilities.

Equipment failures at one of those facilities in August prompted the state to temporarily take over Jackson water, in part, to stabilize the system and restore pressure for residents.

During that crisis, Forest Hill was without water for approximately three weeks and, as a result, had to transition to online learning.

Jackson Public Schools Superintendent Errick Greene said having the town hall at Forrest Hill is an acknowledgment of how hard South Jackson was hit by the water crisis.

“I appreciate that the mayor reached out, his office reached out, to host the meeting here,” he said. “The mayor even said as much... that South Jackson has had a tougher time than other areas in the city with the lack of water or lack of water pressure.”

Greene added that it was a “point of pride” to hear one of the district’s students speak out. “The question, as I recall, was around what can be done. And so, what can we do, including himself and scholars and the community?” he said. “Even that question signals a level of responsibility, ownership for what happens next.”

As for Chapman, who hopes to one day be an engineer for Nissan, plans to take the mayor and Henifin’s advice. “I’m definitely going to conserve water,” he said. “And if I see any leaks, I will call 311.”

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