The Mississippi State Department of Health first issued the notice Thursday morning after reporting E.coli was in two samples submitted from JXN Water, Jackson’s third-party water manager. The notice was concurrent with a boil water notice MSDH issued for Flowood, which, the agency said, also had E.coli in its water samples.
Just hours later, JXN Water’s Ted Henifin held a press conference disputing the results, arguing that it was highly unlikely for both Jackson and Flowood to have traces of E.coli in the same testing period, and that the results were likely false positives. Henifin also criticized the Health Department for not validating the results before issuing the boil water notice, something allowed under federal guidelines through the Environmental Protection Agency.
MSDH initially pushed back, saying in a press release that the agency reviewed its protocol and was “confident in (the test results’) validity.”
The agency’s quick lifting of the boil water notice for Jackson — Flowood’s remains active as of this publishing — is a shift from its usual procedure. MSDH usually requires two consecutive days of clean samples, as well as roughly a day to analyze the results, before it lifts a boil water notice.
MSDH officials did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
While the citywide notice was lifted, two separate notices due to loss of pressure are still active in Jackson, affecting 351 customers. Visit MSDH’s boil water notice listing to see which areas are affected.
JXN Water preps for cold weather
Throughout the last year, JXN Water has upgraded the city’s largely exposed and vulnerable water treatment facilities to better sustain cold weather. Temperatures in Jackson could reach as low as 15 degrees on Monday, according to the National Weather Service, with a chance of snow, sleet and freezing rain.
The main upgrades, Henifin explained Friday, were covering and insulating the city’s water treatment facilities, hoping to prevent a repeat of the 2021 water shutdown in Jackson when equipment left exposed to the cold prevented the city from putting out enough pressure into the system.
Henifin also said the city is more well equipped now to handle water line ruptures. In the past, such as on Christmas in 2022, the cold weather has frequently led to line breaks and subsequent boil water notices. JXN Water, Henifin said, now has 14 crews that will work around the clock to repair any breaks, versus the two crews that the city had a year ago.
Jackson officials are asking residents to let their faucets drip during freezing weather to prevent pipes from freezing, as well as to open their cabinets under the sink to allow heat inside.
Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba’s office cautioned residents to stay home in the event of snow, sleet, or freezing rain, because of possibly dangerous driving conditions and the city’s limited capacity to clear snow and ice from the roads.
The city will also open a temporary shelter on Monday at 11 A.M. with food and cots, at 1355 Hattiesburg Street in Jackson.
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