Jackson clean water flow not affected by brief chemical leak

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Members of the Unified Command going about work at the O.B. Curtis plant. (Photo: MEMA)

The Unified Command responsible for restoring Jackson’s water system to normal on September 15 was spurred into action Monday morning (Sept. 19) when a chlorine leak was detected in the chemical building at the O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant, Jackson’s problematic main supply system. 

On-site safety personnel were notified of an alarm at 9:04 a.m. at the O.B. Curtis site and they identified a chlorine leak in the plant’s chemical building, Malary White, Chief Communications Officer of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA),  announced Monday.

The leak came from three valves that were immediately secured after everyone working in the building was assured of safety, the MEMA spokesperson said.

“All personnel were evacuated immediately from the chemical building. That building is designed to have air scrubbers to keep chlorine from leaving the structure and reportedly worked as designed,” MEMA announced. “No other evacuations of surrounding areas were necessary.”

Ridgeland Fire Department, the Jackson Fire Department Hazmat Team, and the O.B. Curtis maintenance staff identified the three leaking valves and secured the area, with no injuries reported. The all-clear signal was given at 11:08 a.m. Monday.

Mississippi Department of Health Incident Commander Jim Craig said increased focus on reducing safety hazards in the O.B. Curtis chemical building is needed. 

“While this was a chlorine leak,” Craig said, “the Mississippi State Department of Health engineers monitored the water disinfection during the leak. The disinfection process was uninterrupted, (and) water being distributed to the public is still safe for consumption as long as you follow MSDH precautions.” 

This work has expanded to the J.H. Fewell Plant, the smaller of the two water processing plants serving customers in Jackson and some of the surrounding communities. 

Following the August 30 declaration of an emergency by both the state and federal governments in an effort to end the City of Jackson’s water crisis, a group of Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) teams set up a unified command structure to restore Jackson’s water delivery system to its pre-crisis state. 

Although the city is no longer plagued with citywide boil notices, MEMA cautions that several limited areas are under repair and water flow will be affected during the repair work. These notices may affect only one street, subdivision, or community at a time. There have been four boil water notices since the city-wide notice was lifted on September 15, 2022. These notices affected 55 connections in the city of Byram, seven connections on North Honeysuckle Lane in the 39211 zip code, five connections on Peachtree St. in the 39202 zip code, and 10 connections on Vine Street which is also in the 39202 zip code in Jackson. Three of the four noticed have been lifted at press time.   

In addition to the round-the-clock applied expertise of MEMA, its federal counterpart, FEMA, the U.S. Corps of Engineers, and the Mississippi Rural Water Association, teams also came from South Carolina, Michigan, Maryland, and Ohio. These teams include operators, mechanics, instrument technicians, and maintenance crews.

The restored water system continues to meet the demand and is maintaining sufficient output. As the work continues at the O.B. Curtis and J.H. Fewell plants to improve water production, MEMA says that all customers should be assured of water delivery that will continue to meet and outperform EPA requirements.

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Jackson clean water flow not affected by brief chemical leak

By Earnest McBride
September 22, 2022