Monday, May 3, 2021
The City of Jackson declared municipal water once again safe to drink this morning after an electrical fire erupted at the O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant early Friday morning, prompting a plant shutdown for fire mitigation and repairs. The resulting drop in water pressure prompted a required boil-water notice for all city connections over the weekend, adding additional woes to Jackson’s ongoing water crisis.
“The City of Jackson has received clearance to lift the precautionary boil water notice that was put in place as a result of the electrical fire on Friday, April 30, 2021 at O.B. Curtis WTP,” this morning’s statement from city officials says.
In a Friday press briefing, Public Works Director Charles Williams gave additional details about the fire and resulting problems at the plant.
“Around 3:30 (A.M.) the lead operator at that particular time noticed a noise in the lower room of the operations room and when he went to look within the operations room he discovered smoke and as a result of that a fire was started,” Williams said.
Both the Ridgeland and Jackson Fire Departments were called in to contain the blaze, which they extinguished sometime before 5 a.m. By that time, however, water pressure had reached below 65 pounds-per-square-inch, setting off a required boil-water notice.
For the second time during this year’s water crisis, city officials brought in contractors to repair the electrical issue, which they were able to complete by noon. The plant resumed normal water pressure by Friday night, but safety protocols required two days of clean water samples before the boil-water notice could be lifted.
‘Still Under State Of Emergency’
During Friday’s press briefing, Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba spoke of the broader infrastructure issues Jackson faces, harkening back to the weeks without water the city faced.
“I do see us as still being under emergency, even though residents were able to have their water restored and the boil water notice lifted,” Lumumba said.
“When we have aged systems, it's not a matter of if, but a matter of when we will experience the events and the breakdown of our systems going forward,” the mayor said. “That is why we have continued to highlight the need for additional resources, the need to address this aging infrastructure.”
Lack of funding for critical infrastructure maintenance and upgrades contributes to the city’s increasingly common water issues, and lack of personnel at O.B. Curtis may have contributed to this latest incident. The plant is currently lacking personnel to oversee routine electrical maintenance, which may have prevented Friday’s fire.
Email Reporting Fellow Julian Mills at [email protected].