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Is the Jackson water plant beyond repair?

After severe flooding in Jackson, Mississippi at the end of August, the O.B. Curtis Water Plant started experiencing failures, leaving more than 150,000 residents without running water for days. Now that running water has restored its been nearly two weeks and officials say that the water still isn't safe to drink.

A similar crisis occurred in February 2020 when Jackson experienced extreme weather conditions causing the water plant to freeze leaving some residents without water for up to seven weeks according to Jackson Councilman Aaron Banks. More than ten years ago, in 2012 the United States Environmental Protection Agency fined Jackson nearly half a million dollars for violating the Clean Water Act. In fact residents have received boil water notices almost every month for almost two years.

"We need a new water system," says Tracy Miller, a Jackson resident and mother concerned about how the water issues are impacting her children.

I asked Governor Tate Reeves during a press conference if his administration was considering that O.B. Curtis was beyond repair and he insured myself and the media that the plant is only 30 years old.

"Anyone can stand and and say look its because we need a new plant that we find ourselves where we are but again as a reminder these challenges have literally cost tens of thousands of dollars to fix in the O.B. Curtis facility so no we don't believe that the obvious solution or easy solution is to go just go build a new plant," says Governor Reeves.

A lawsuit was filed after dozens of children in Jackson tested positive for exposure to lead. This raises additional concerns about Jackson's infrastructure. Even if officials are able to repair the O.B. Curtis water plant there are still miles and miles of pipes underground that contain led.

There are at least two other water plants in the city of Jackson; J.H. Fewell and Savannah Waste Water Treatment Plant. What's unclear is why each time the O.B. Curtis plant fails it leaves the majority of Jackson without water.

Coverage made possible by the Wayfinder Foundation.

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