‘No guarantees’: Third-party manager beefing up staff at treatment plant to boost water production

A sign at a Fondren vinyl shop on Tuesday afternoon informs customers there is still no water.
A sign at a Fondren vinyl shop on Tuesday afternoon informs customers there is still no water.(WLBT)
Published: Jan. 3, 2023 at 6:45 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Jackson will have additional staffers at its main water treatment plant Tuesday night, after yet another setback with water restoration efforts late Monday and early Tuesday.

“Once again, I feel like we are repeating the same message day after day and it is really feeling hollow by now,” Jackson water manager Ted Henifin said. “I continue to apologize to those residents without any water at all - now on their 13th day.”

Meanwhile, he is asking residents and businesses to conserve water, “to help us get water to those without.”

“It will take a unified effort to get past this challenge, and I appreciate everyone’s continued patience and cooperation,” he said.

Henifin said water could be restored to most, if not all, homes and businesses sometime on Tuesday.

However, on Tuesday afternoon, some areas of the city were still high and dry, including parts of the Fondren Business District along North State Street.

Jeff Good, co-owner of Broad Street Bakery & Cafe, opened Tuesday morning after being closed for more than a week, only to close less than seven hours later due again to dry taps.

”I remain confident and resolved that the solutions are at hand and the right people are making the decisions and pulling the levers,“ Good said in a Facebook post. “We are optimistic that an early close today, and overnight regrouping, will lead to another 7 a.m. opening tomorrow.”

The problem remains inconsistent pressure in the system.

“As I have reported for most of the last week, we still have not been able to put enough water into the system to overcome the losses resulting from the Christmas Eve deep freeze,” Henifin said.

An extreme cold front pushed through the metro area the Thursday before Christmas. Many residents began reporting water outages on Christmas Eve.

The drops in pressure, according to Henifin, were initially due to breaks in the distribution lines that carry water from the treatment plants to homes and businesses.

Many of those breaks had been repaired, but the city still has been unable to restore pressure, in part, due to setbacks at the Jackson’s O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant.

Curtis serves about 43,000 connections. Pressure has to be around 80 pounds per square inch for all parts of the city to have service.

Henifin, who was put in charge of Jackson’s water system as part of a federal court order, said the goal has been to build pressure by pushing more water into the system around midnight, when the least amount of water is being used by customers.

However, on at least a couple of occasions those plans have fallen through due to plant setbacks. On Saturday night the city experienced problems at Curtis due to changes in the surface water temperature at the Barnett Reservoir.

“So, the water is layered by temperature and it kind of flips over as the temperature [changes]. We keep having these swings, you know, from really cold back to 70-degree weather and so the water flips over,” Henifin explained. “It challenges the operator at that point to make sure the process stays in place. And if we’re off on our chemical dosing or anything like that we can lose process a little bit.”

Sunday night was better, but the city had additional problems Monday night Going into Tuesday. Henifin did not go into details about what caused those issues.

“Each day we prepare by cleaning filters [and] sedimentation beds, adjusting chemical feeds, topping off chemical supplies, and other similar work with the goal of being ready to ramp up production during the middle of the night,” he said. “We have repeated that process today with the goal of attempting that sustained high production tonight.”

Whether that plan is successful could be known Wednesday morning.

“Am I confident based on the past several nights? Not entirely,” Henifin said. “But we have additional experienced professionals on-site - something we have not had for the past week. With these contractors on site, I am a bit more confident, but no guarantees.”

Want more WLBT news in your inbox? Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.