JACKSON, Miss.—The O.B. Curtis Water Treatment facility is experiencing significant challenges due to the increased water flow from the Ross Barnett Reservoir, which is hampering treatment processes at the facility and leading to city-wide water-pressure reduction in Jackson. Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba disclosed during a Monday press briefing on the effect of the Pearl River flooding on the capital city.
“Where we have been challenged, as it relates to these flood levels, is at our water-treatment facility, and O.B. Curtis receives its water from the reservoir,” he said. “They have to be able to figure out how they contend with that additional water that is coming in, and so that has led to the reduction of water being put out into the system, which consequently reduces the tank levels and affects system-wide the water pressure in the homes of our residents.
“That is what is leading to the water-pressure issues system-wide and across the city, and they’re working diligently to find out how they can treat what is coming in additionally so that not only we push it out to you, but it is not in a hazardous form.”
‘Remain Vigilant And Stay Prepared’
The 33,000-acre reservoir takes in water from the Pearl River, and the manager, John Sigman, told the media that it crested early Monday.
“However, there is still a lot of water that must flow downstream,” the reservoir management added in a press release.
“Water will be in several streets in Jackson and could begin approaching some homes and businesses,” the release added. “Residents in low-lying areas should remain vigilant and stay prepared.” The reservoir management team added that the “high water event is predicted to last 7-10 days.”
Sigman said the organization was able to reduce the flows out of the reservoir by 10,000 cubic feet per second early Monday morning. “We reduced the flows by another 5,000 and sometime shortly, maybe right now (about 1 p.m.), we’re going to reduce the flow (by) another 5,000; that (will) allow the water to start receding,” he said.
Mayor Lumumba said he thinks lowering the amount of water released from the reservoir will help with operations at the water-treatment plant.
“I believe that that will give some level of relief to those that are working at the water treatment facility,” he said. “But this is an outage that could potentially last a few days.”
“Anytime our tank levels are depleted, it takes significant work to recover, significant work to bring those levels back to a point where there is sufficient water pressure for all of our residents,” he added. “We are in talks with emergency responders in the state to address this issue.”
The mayor stated that two schools, McLeod Elementary and Casey Elementary, added virtual options on Monday. The Jackson Public School District announced changes to its schedules on Sunday due to ongoing water pressure problems and flood water.
Later on Monday evening, JPS announced that all schools are going virtual for Aug. 30, 2022. “According to the City of Jackson, the flooding of the Pearl River has created problems with treating water at the O.B. Curtis Water Plant,” the district said. “Adjustments to the water treatment process are being made and has led to a temporary decrease in the production of water for areas across the city.”
“This will remain an issue for the next couple of days as they work to refill the tanks.”
The Mississippi Department of Public Safety also announced the indefinite closure of the Driver Service Bureau office at 1900 E. Woodrow Wilson Avenue due to the water emergency “within the city limits of Jackson.”
“Driver’s Service Staff will relocate to the Pearl Office/troop C located at 3851 Highway 468 West, Pearl, Mississippi, 39204,” the organization said. “This location will be by appointment only.”
On Monday evening, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves announced that he was hosting an “emergency briefing” at 7 p.m. “alongside our Department of Health and Emergency Management Agency, on today’s failure of our state capital’s water system and the resources that the state is mobilizing to respond.”
‘Falling Much Faster Than Expected’
The mayor said the “good news” is that the Pearl River’s water level “is falling much faster than expected with northeast Jackson (where the Pearl River is located) already seeing water recede.” The initial projection was for 36 feet of water at the Pearl River, which the mayor said experts projected might affect up to 150 buildings. The mayor said that flood water “at this point has only entered inside one home, and so we’re grateful for that blessing.
“Several streets are still impassable—Westbrook, Rollingwood, Harrow, Julian and Nichols streets—those streets are still impassable, and we ask that residents still avoid driving down those streets,” Lumumba said.
The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency listed two available shelters for those affected by the flood on its website. Hinds County residents can use the Jackson Police Training Academy (3000 St. Charles Street), and for Madison County residents, Madison United Methodist (100 Post Oak Road).
The Red Cross runs those shelters for those the flood displaces. The Red Cross’ Southwest Mississippi Executive Director Tamica Jeuitt said Monday at the press conference that the two centers hosted one person each overnight.
“Shelters will remain open until Wednesday evening for those that are in need, those who may only have limited accommodations and still are unable to return to their homes,” she said, adding that a recent operation involved distributing meals in Canton, Miss., on Sunday.
Mandatory Evacuation in Ridgeland
The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency announced mandatory evacuations for people in the Harbor Pines Mobile Home Community in Ridgeland, Miss., beginning Saturday, following Mayor Gene F. McGee’s declaration. A facility office receptionist told the Mississippi Free Press over the phone on Monday that the mobile-home park includes 288 lots.
McGee said the reason is that Entergy announced a cut-off of electricity to the area by 2 p.m. He lifted the state of emergency Monday, stating that “[t]he flooding event has passed; Entergy has restored power, so the residents of Harbor Pines may move back to their homes immediately.”
At a press conference on Aug. 27, 2022, where Gov. Tate Reeves declared a state of emergency for areas affected by the flood, Mississippi Emergency Management Agency Executive Director Stephen McCraney said that there had already been dozens of homes and businesses affected by flooding. Along with the City of Jackson, Wilkerson, Rankin, Hinds, Leake, Newton, and Clark counties declared local emergencies.
Also read Nick Judin’s award-winning 2021 multi-part series revealing factors creating the Jackson water crisis over the decades.