Mayor says treatment chemicals must continue

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The treatment chemicals that caused repeated boil water advisories will continue to be needed for about a year, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said Monday at a news conference at the water treatment plant. Water OB Curtis.

The town of Jackson has been under a boil water advisory for more than a week, and many restaurants and residents are wondering why.

The plant recently switched from using soda ash, which clumped in extreme humidity, to a lime slurry to clean the water, Lumumba said, but the slurry results in higher turbidity, or a cloudiness, in the water, which caused the water to boil. Remarks.

“When I continue to share with you that our water treatment facility is under a constant or perpetual state of emergency, when I say this, I mean it,” Lumumba said.

Weatherization projects that will allow the plant to return to soda won’t be completed until next year, city engineer Robert Lee said. Until then, whitewash will continue to be used. The city used lime mud until about 6 years ago when persistently high turbidity levels caused them to switch to soda ash, the mayor said.

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“We think that’s the culprit in terms of the level of turbidity in our water,” Lumumba said.

Some aspects of the city’s weatherization projects have already been completed. One of the most visible is a large white enclosure that has been built around the membranes of the plant. That said, the city said it’s hundreds of millions of dollars short of making the plant compliant with federal laws and regulations.

“Despite our continued requests for funding to manage all the accumulating issues that have arisen from administration to administration, we are currently investing in our water treatment facility every day,” Lumumba said. “If you look behind me, you see this huge building. Sometimes when we describe that there is a structure that we are trying to put on our membranes to protect our system from the weather, it is difficult to fully grasp and understand the type of investment that we make here.”

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, left, listens as City Engineer Robert Lee addresses the media during an update on the status of water treatment issues in the city during of a press conference at the OB Curtis Water Treatment Plant in Ridgeland, Miss., Monday, Aug. 8, 2022.

The mayor and Lee were joined by Keith Allen, water resources engineer with Cornerstone Engineering, to underscore their view that the city’s water is safe, despite ongoing boil water advisories. High turbidity, they say, is a symptom of lime mud use, not an indication of unsafe water.

“The turbidity of the lime does not cause any health hazard,” Allen said.

That said, high turbidity can also increase the risk of hazardous particles in the water, according to a press release issued Thursday by the city, which said residents “should take precautions and boil their water before using it.” .

The mayor and Allen called the high turbidity from using lime mud a “technical violation” with the Mississippi state health department, not an indication of danger. Lumumba said the city was asking the department to change the city’s water sampling point, so that samples could be taken further downstream where the mud might have had more time to dissipate. It can reduce the frequency of boil water advisories, Lumumba said, and he thinks those conversations with the department have been positive and productive.

Lee also addressed reports that tens of millions of gallons of raw sewage poured into nearby waterways between April and June. He said fixing these leaks, especially the single leak that led to about 20 million gallons of untreated sewage spilling into Town Creek, is difficult and expensive. He said the collapsed sewer line is located under a rail yard and raw sewage continues to leak and make its way into the creek, which empties into the Pearl River.

As the city continues to prepare its package of proposals to send to the state for federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, Lee said the bulk of those proposals would go to addressing the city’s sewer system. city, not its drinking water treatment plants.

“We’re going to look into that more for our sewer work. As you know, we have a lot of sewer issues in town,” Lee said. “We are also looking at other federal aid funding options…that can help us here at the water plant.”

Lumumba said many of the city’s drinking water and sewer problems stem from decades of mismanagement.

“These are things that have gotten out of hand with the city and we are doing our best to catch up,” Lumumba said.

The mayor also addressed recent comments from City Council member Kenneth Stokes, who suggested the city should continue to privatize its water systems. The mayor strongly opposed this idea.

“It’s an absolute death sentence for cities,” Lumumba said. “You lose control of the water, you lose control of the city, point blank. Before Detroit went bankrupt, they lost control of their water system.”

Pipes that carry clean water after filtration at the OB Curtis Water Treatment Plant in Ridgeland, Miss., now lie under the near-completed weather cover Monday, August 8, 2022. The structure was built in response to the hard frost last winter which shut down most of the plant.

While staunchly opposed to privatization, the mayor said the city is willing to enter into contracts and maintenance agreements that help increase staff shortages and keep factories running with trained personnel.

As the mayor wrapped up his press conference, another began downtown at the Iron Horse Grill. The conference, hosted by the Mississippi Hospitality and Restaurant Association, brought together Jackson restaurateurs who called on the city and state to find a solution that will keep them from spending thousands of dollars a week on repeated boils. Remarks.

In an interview, Iron Horse general manager Andy Nesenson said his restaurant could spend up to $2,500 a week during notices, a cost that is almost always absorbed by the company. He says it’s a real threat, especially to restaurants smaller than Iron Horse.

“We’re definitely doing everything we can to keep the doors open,” Nesenson said. “Obviously we don’t want to close. We have, you know, close to 90 employees who depend on a check-up every two weeks, and so our job is to try to do everything we can to not only so that the public feels comfortable to go out and dine, but also for our employees. I mean, school just started today for a lot of them, and we have a lot of moms and dads here who, you know , if they don’t work they don’t eat.”

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