JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) – City Engineer Charles Williams says between 10,000 and 15,000 customers were temporarily without water Tuesday morning as the city had to cut production at the O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant.
Monday night, the city issued a precautionary boil water notice after pressure in the water distribution system dropped below 65 PSI.
“The threshold is 65 PSI. If we dropped below 65 PSI, we immediately have to issue a precautionary boil water notice that the system has lost pressure beyond that threshold and, so, therefore, we released that statement,” he said.
For water to be fully restored, the city must achieve between 85 and 90 PSI in the distribution system. As of Tuesday afternoon, water pressure was hovering between 78 and 80 PSI, Williams said.
Pressure fell after the city cut off treatment at the conventional side of the plant after a worker there discovered the city had used a bad batch of treatment chemicals. The worker discovered the bad chemicals Sunday, but the pressure did not drop below the threshold until Monday evening.
“From our calculation, it looks like we probably had at some point from late yesterday to early this morning, about 10 to 15,000 customers out of water,” he said.
Since then, he said the city is making progress in rebuilding pressure in the system and said that the majority of the customers again have water service.
“We have received very limited calls today as far as no water. We have received some calls for low water pressure,” he said. “Those are primarily residents who live in South Jackson and West Jackson… They do have water, but it is low… somewhere around 10 or 11 PSI. We’d like to see that somewhere around 20 PSI to get them off of the boil water notice.”
Pressure dropped after the city had to halt water production at the Curtis plant’s convention treatment side. A water operator there discovered that the city had used a bad batch of aluminum chlorohydrate, a chemical used to treat water brought in from the Ross Barnett Reservoir.
“We had a very difficult time trying to get it out of the basins. So, we had to drop our basins to get it cleaned out,” he said. “That’s a very timely process. And so we’re trying to balance keeping the pressure consistent on that side while we were treating the water and getting it out of the system, but unfortunately, we could not hold that 65 PSI.”
“Fewell was tiring to help out, but we just couldn’t do it,” he said. “All of it kind of fell apart yesterday.”
Fewell is the J.H. Fewell Water Treatment Plant. While the conventional basins were shut down, the city was still pumping out water through the Fewell Plant and Curtis’ membrane system.
Williams said none of those chemicals or the water got into the system. “Our operator… discovered the issue. He was trying to utilize ACH during the water process, but he could just not get the water where it needed to be before we could get it into the next step of the process, so we had to shut it down,” he said.
“He’s been there almost 15, 16 years. And he understands how the water should be and how the agent base should be coagulated with the water. And when it was not coagulated with the water, he knew immediately there (was) issues,” he said. “And so they tried some different methods in order to mitigate it, but it was just not working.”
The city engineer said the conventional side was shut down to ensure none of the bad chemicals or water got into residents’ pipes. “We were not going to risk that. We were not going to put out any water in the system that was not in compliance,” he said.
He was unsure when the boil water notice would be lifted. He said sampling would begin in areas where water pressure is restored first. Those areas include North Jackson and Fondren. South Jackson and West Jackson, which bore the brunt of the winter water crisis earlier this year, will likely see water pressure rebuild slower because those areas are farther away from the treatment plants.
“If there are some residents without water, a majority of those called this morning and that was at peak time,” Williams said. “But some of the surveys that I’ve done later today, prior to this press conference, some of those areas that I’ve checked, they’ve got water restored, but it is low.”
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