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JXN Water Disputes Boil Notice, Suggesting Lab Contamination: ‘A Kick in the Gut’

JXN Water, the entity in control of Jackson’s water system, is challenging a state-imposed boil water notice for the cities of Jackson and Flowood. Interim Third-Party Manager Ted Henifin suggested Thursday that the Mississippi State Department of Health’s Public Health Laboratory may have accidentally contaminated its own samples with E. coli and then declined to appropriately retest sample sites to validate their findings.

The announcement comes after MSDH issued a boil water notice for both Jackson and Flowood following routine water sampling, placing over 200,000 residents in the capital area under an alert warning that the agency’s sampling had found dangerous E. coli bacteria in both cities.

Henifin, the federal manager that the U.S. Department of Justice put in charge of Jackson’s water system after its collapse in 2022, fought back against the state’s conclusion in an afternoon press avail. “Having positive (E. coli) results from any system … is fairly unusual,” he said.

But finding unrelated positives from two different water sources in the same run of tests goes beyond that, he argued.

“Having two positives from two different water systems on the same day, analyzed at the same time, seems highly suspect. We all know laboratories aren’t perfect, whether it’s a health lab or water lab. They’re all run by humans. Mistakes are made. Equipment may malfunction. Cross-contamination happens.”

JXN Water Questions Lack of Retesting

E. coli contamination can cause mild and occasionally serious illnesses in individuals affected, but for adults over the age of 65, children younger than 5 and the immunocompromised, the risk of infection is worse.

Flowood Mayor Gary Rhoads did not respond to a request for comment by press time but told WLBT that he questions the results as well—even though both Jackson and Flowood intend to abide by MSDH’s recommendations.

Flowood Mayor Gary Rhoads contested MSDH’s decision to issue a boil water notice in an interview with news channel WLBT on July 11, 2024. Photo courtesy City of Flowood

JXN Water added that MSDH also declined to retest the locations, identified in Jackson as Sheffield Dr. and Riverwood Dr.

Jacobs Engineering Drinking Water

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