Tuesday, April 27, 2021

How Bad Were Jackson's Water Treatment Plants?

Collection of all posts on EPA order.  

 The EPA found a pattern of neglect, malfunctioning equipment, and good ole-fashioned incompetence when it inspected Jackson's water treatment plants a year ago.  The agency issued an Emergency Administrative Order against the city a year ago.  However, the EPA issued an inspection report as well.  The report provides more information than the order.  Upon reading it, it is hard to escape the conclusion that Jackson's water treatment plants were a disaster waiting to happen.  Unfortunately, the disaster did indeed happen in February when the water system failed during the ice storm, leaving some residents without water service for nearly a month. 

 The inspectors found key monitors and equipment weren't calibrated for years at a time.  pH meters were inaccurate up to 2 points - when they worked.  Staffing was neglected.  Key EPA rules weren't followed such as institution a lead service line replacement program.  The report is replete with a plethora of examples of neglect.  

 

Key Findings of Inspection

 *  Jackson estimates it loses "40 to 50 percent" of its water due to leaks in the lines.  Read that again.  Jackson residents are literally paying for half of the water to go straight into the ground.  The city repairs 5-6 line breaks per day. The breaks cause a loss in water pressure, generating 750 boil water notices since 2016.  Instead of following the 2013 master plan for pipe replacement, the city instead replaces on line segments that require 10-15 repairs per year.  The city did not keep any maintenance logs for line repairs.  (Observation #8)

* The raw water screens at O.B. Curtis were rehabbed in 2014.  Unfortunately, the inspectors found them to be non-functional.  The operators said they had been non-functional since 2017 but would soon be repaired.  Are these the screens that "failed" during the ice storm? 

* The automatic sludge removal system at O.B. Curtis "has been inoperable for three years." The staff must take down a basin and manually remove the sludge.  (Observation #11) The Fewell plant has similar problems.  The automatic sludge removal system at Fewell does not work either. (Observation #12) The staff must drain each basin and manually remove the sludge. Needless to say, such a method is highly inefficient and not always as thorough as an automatic system.  Remember that $1.5 million sewer line job at the 17th hole at the CCJ two years ago? This just miiiiiiight have had something to do with that job.

* EPD determined the plants were woefully understaffed.  The plants must be staffed with licensed Class A operators.  O.B. Curtis only had two such operators per eight-hour shift.  The EPA said there should be at least four Class A operators per shift. The Mayor told WLBT last night they are almost impossible to find in Mississippi.  (Observation #10)  One key position went vacant for over three years. 

* South Jackson neglect.  Nine surface wells served Southwest Jackson until 2014 when the city opened a 5-million gallon pumping station on TV road.  However the pumping station failed (surprise) in 2015.  The city turned the wells back on and has not used the pumping station since it failed.  However, three of the wells, including a major one on Siwell Road well were not active at the time of the inspection.  (P.7 at bottom of page)

However, the news just gets worse for South Jackson.  The city built and switched over to the pumping station without completing the required corrosion control treatment (effect on corrosion of pipes) or water quality evaluation before its construction.  In other words, the city just built it, ignored the rules, and saw it fail a year later.  

* Jar tests are not conducted regularly (Observation #11)

* "No filter maintenance performed in recent history" at O.B. Curtis. (Observation #11)

*  Falsification of Reports (Observation #14).  Inspectors observed the addition of chlorine dioxide (CL02) to the water at the Fewell plant on February 5, 2020.  However, Jackson's monthly operating report states no chlorine dioxide was added to the water on that date.  No monitoring was "conducted" on that date for the chemical as well.  

* Both plants use UV light to disinfect the water.  The UV light reactors were often out of commission.  One reactor at Fewell was down for four months.  The other three reactors were offline for 15-17 days in January 2020.  The four reactors were again offline in February 2020 from 7 to 20 days. 

O.B. Curtis fared slightly better.  Reactors were down from 2 to 10 days in January 2020 although one operated for the entire month.   However, the reactors were offline from 8 to 13 days in February 2020. (Observation #7)  Keep in mind this is what actually sterilizes the water.

* Jackson never implemented a lead service line replacement program.  The city is supposed to replace lead service lines after discovering lead in the water in 2015.  Jackson did not even evaluate the lines to determine if any lead service lines existed.  The city did not notify the public of lead problems in 2017 and 2018.  (Did it learn anything from Flint?)  This finding is a big deal. (Observation #4)

* Jackson did not, repeat, did not, provide required lead and copper results in 2016 and 2018 annual reports to Jackson residents. 

* Jackson didn't implement lead and copper water monitoring requirements.  (Observation #5)

* Turbidity is the clarity of the water. The cloudier the water, the higher the turbidity.  The water treatment plant injects coagulants into the water.  The solids in the water clump and fall to the bottom of the tank where they are removed.  Turbidity must remain below a reading of 0.3 nephelometric turbidity units (NTUs).  Clear is good, cloudy is bad. 

The turbidity monitors were not calibrated for over three years and thus gave inaccurate readings.  The turbidity reached a level of 1.35 for one day at Curtis and three days at Fewell.  (Observation #6).  However, the monthly operating report said there was no excessive turbidity at either plant in January despite the readings.  Turbidity levels were exceeded again in February.  The turbidity reached a level of $1.55 NTUs on one day in February at Curtis.  

* Disinfectants were used at higher than legal limits at both plants in January and February 2020.  Such use can produce byproducts harmful to the water system.  

* Falsification of records. How else does one describe this statement in the first observation: 

Duplicate samples were collected from the same site in the same compliance period . and used to meet the required minimum number of samples.  EPA inspectors observed this in monitoring data collected in October 2017, October 2018, April 2019, and October 2019.  The city of Jackson is required to collect 100 samples every 6 months.  Per the sampling plan, the city of Jackson had identified over 300 sampling sites.

  There is plenty more information in the report just waiting to be read. 

 Kingfish note: The inspections reveals the Jackson water treatment system was neglected for years.  Record-keeping was spotty and at times non-existent.  Key positions at the plants were left vacant.  Too many staff members are either incompetent or untrained.  Equipment and monitors don't work or aren't maintained properly.  The failure to keep the sludge removal system working is simply inexcusable.  Period.  The Mayor can say all he wants that it's hard to find qualified personnel but he's had over three years to fill some of these positions.  

The report and EPA order are about the condition of Jackson's water treatment plants, not the water itself per se.  The system imploded in February.  Granted, there was an ice storm but these orders and reports make it clear that Jackson's water system was a disaster waiting to happen and happen it did. 

The question that should be asked is what was the condition of the water treatment plants a year ago and what are those conditions today? Are personnel hired? Are the screens actually fixed or were they broken before the ice storm? Are the UV light disinfectors continuously working today as they should or are they continuously offline as they were last year and in January? Water quality and water service are two separate issues despite the Mayor's protestations to the contrary.  

The simple truth is Jackson neglected and abused its water treatment system for the last 5-8 years.  The Mayor should have told the City Council and the public about the EPA inspection and order a year ago.  Budget changes could have been made.  An aggressive effort to hire operators could have been funded and implemented.  Perhaps the ice storm disaster could have been avoided.  However, we will never know because we were not told and that my friends, is the bottom line.

 Don't let the 26 pages scare you from reading the report.  Most if it is simple recitations of the U.S. Code.  Such passages can be skipped over.  The real meat is in the description at the end of each observation.  If you don't understand something or a term, ask in the comments.

36 comments:

The Ghost of Harvey Johnson's Many Mistakes said...

If this isn't criminal it should be. People should go to prison for this.

Anonymous said...

@1:21 PM
Democrats always get away with it.

Anonymous said...

This is criminal. The mayor needs to do jail time.

Anonymous said...

turbids floating around in there is bad enough.

Anonymous said...

I was thinking of selling my Jackson house, but now I think I will just burn it down and take the insurance check. It is 2 stories tall so I am sure there won’t be enough water pressure to put out the upstairs fires.

Anonymous said...

These are "our" water treatment plants.

Anonymous said...

Can't pass up an opportunity for a political jab, huh 1:47? Yeah, yeah, the other side does it worse, blah, blah

To say the EPA action is about process, rather than product, ignores the fact that the product is the result of the process. Jackson's water physically passes through this process, and must necessarily be affected by it. The info about rigged testing/no testing explains a lot.

Anonymous said...

"The City of Jackson did not implement...", "The City of Jackson did not reveal...", "The City of Jackson failed to...", "The City of Jackson did not report...", and the tales of woe continue. Absolutely unconscionable.

Anonymous said...

Lumumba's getting re-elected alone is proof that poo poo water can cause altered thinking. How could anybody in their right mind....nevermind .

Anonymous said...

@2:31
I am 1:47 and I am not. GOPer or “conservative” but it is undeniable that the media carries the water (pun intended) for the Democrats and leftists at all levels.

Anonymous said...

I hope my surgeon scrubbed at a sink that uses well water!!

Anonymous said...

Shad White, it’s time for you to get in there and clean out and send some to jail for the thefts that have been perpetrated against the Jackson residents. Get you a body guard, then go in there and uncover the thefts from the top down. I for one promise I will vote for you for any office you run for, governor, senator, congressman,etc.
I am afraid you are the only one courageous enough to to do this. You might pick up a few more in Canton while you are at it.

Anonymous said...


Our administration has been monitoring the recommendations of the EPA.
The turbitity of turbids remains in an acceptable paramenter of of 0.330.999 % per 10,000 .

So this is not an emergency.

right ?

I can also assure Jacksonians the speridum levels have not met the Parallax per parts per million turbitation
per .

right ?

Kingfish said...

The Mayor told the city Council today the EPA would send someone to the May 11 meeting.

Anonymous said...

So it sounds like if you drink Jackson water you're basically drinking untreated sewage.

Anonymous said...

The water in Jackson has long looked like it the toilet needing flushing before it was ever used. This makes sense.

Anonymous said...

Who has authority over his failure to reveal this information until after the election? The Mississippi Ethics Commission? The DoJ?? Surely there is someone who can act on the citizen’s behalf! As others have said, this is criminal.

Anonymous said...

The report and EPA order are about the condition of Jackson's water treatment plants, not the water itself per se.

Chowkey is convinced that what's happening here is an evil racist conspiracy to mislead Jackson about water quality with an active disinformation campaign.

This is not, NOT, about his scandalous year-long covering up of an emergency order from the Federal government.

Anonymous said...

EPA Detailed Facility Reports show the following 90th percentile sample concentrations of lead in Jackson's water, with an "action level" (i.e., enforcement level) set at 0.015 mg/L:
January 1, 2016 - June 30, 2016 - 0.016 mg/L (over action level)
July 1, 2016 - December 31, 2016 - 0.0164 mg/L (over action level)
All other measured levels through the last taken (or last reported - 7/1/20 - 12/31/20) are under the action level, with the last reported at .0046 mg/L. So the Jackson water in December, 2020, only contained 28% of the amount of lead in it than it had in December, 2016 (.0046/.0164). Very apparent that the water system is cleaning itself - the lead content is decreasing - it is going away - without spending $1 billion dollars. Everybody relax. Another three or four years it will be safe to drink. Seriously, the numbers appear to show the lead content is materially decreasing. Either (1) corrosion control additives are working, or (2) numbers are fishy. Anyone know if it is the EPA, MDEQ, or City sampling, testing and reporting? EPA report just says "Source ID" and reflects ID no. for City of Jackson water system (MS 0250008).

Anonymous said...

Can’t imagine why people and businesses are fleeing Jackson

Anonymous said...

Donna Ladd is reviewing this looking to see how she can spin this to be white republicans fault

Anonymous said...

can't put lipstick on a turbid

Anonymous said...


"The Trouble with turbids "

What would Kirk & Spock do ?

Anonymous said...

Still after that white whale we see. Huh, Captain Ahab?

No pun intended to the whale for calling him white.

Anonymous said...

Retired degreed Chemist here.
My specialty for 35 years was Water Purification.
Jackson native but now living in Madison.

A few years ago, my company received a bid notice from the City of Jackson.
Afyer review, our lawyers declined the bid, as we did not have minority representatives in the Jackson area.
Never mind that world wide, we were 45% non-white employees.

Anyway, the problems identified by the EPA are easily corrected AND are done so daily by the Power Plants, Paper Mills and Chemical plants in Mississippi. You just have to prioritize.

I’d be glad to help Jackson even as a trainer, but feel confident I would not even be heard.

So g’luck Jackson.

Anonymous said...

Completely criminal- Baby formula was made with this water. A glass of ice water could be fatal for the elderly.
Restaurants w/o full water filtration units are washing food and surfaces, making ice, and food prep using this water.
I’m sure they are not regularly flushing fire plugs either great incubators for bacteria and viruses. Sounds like lead testing should happen immediately throughout the city. This is crisis slowly exposing itself. Thanks for KF, we know about it. The DOJ should be investigating, along with another handful of alphabet agencies.

Anonymous said...

@7:03 I owned a very small engineering company for many years (4-8 employees). I did some private work in the city of Jackson, but never actually did work FOR the city of Jackson. One day a city project came along that was perfectly in my niche. I knew I was the perfect candidate. I put in a proposal and left the portion blank when they asked about number of black employees. They called me and told me the job was mine but they needed the information that was left blank. When I told them I had no black employees they told me that was unacceptable and I wouldn’t be hired.

Anonymous said...

7:02 "..the problems identified xx xxx are xxx are easily corrected AND are done so daily by the xxxxxxxxxxx xxxx xxxx You just have to prioritize. "

So true of much of Jackson's mismanagement in ALL AREAS/DEPARTMENTS!!! Just have soooooo many ignorant people at all levels of management. ...and down the ranks.

Anonymous said...

No, 7:03, you have to grease local palms, just like in other third-world countries.

Anonymous said...

The educated comments cast the appropriate light on the issue with Jackson's failure to provide basic utilities to residents. Unfortunately, the administration is focused on smoke and mirrors.

Jackson is done for. The current administration can't even sidestep their failures while identifying their inability to manage the municipality. Chokwe has claimed his legacy for his folk.

Anonymous said...

And people wonder why educated citizens are scrambling to get out of the state.

This isn’t just a Jackson problem. It’s a Mississippi problem.

Chris said...

Just an innocent question. Why hasn't this completely blown up like Flint? Where is Al Sharpton and Jesse? Where is the outrage from the community like there was in Michigan? Was the mayor in Flint white?

Anonymous said...

@7:30

You're right. It's a statewide problem for any state whose capitol and largest city is taken over by lunatic Dems who turn it into an embarrassing disaster.

Anonymous said...

Bob Miller seemed like an honorable guy and was head and shoulders the best Director of Public Works Jackson has had in a long time. The EPA order (and secrecy about it) certainly sheds new light on his departure three months later.

Anonymous said...

I dealt with Bob Miller. He certainly had some capabilities. He wasn't really a hard worker, he liked to delegate everything. Now that can be good, because in a large city, there are too many things happening at once for one guy to be too hands on. You have to delegate and spend time with the big picture, and Bob was very good at that. Bob's biggest problem is that he had no help. The employee base at the city of Jackson is a bigger problem than the treatment plant.

Bob was the best they have had in a long time. There are many out there better than him, but those guys aren't stupid enough to accept the Jackson job. Bob had experience in big cities also.

Anonymous said...

Misinformation Alert @7:30. This is definitely not a Mississippi problem. What the hell is wrong with you people? Can’t you see that Lumumba is getting exactly what he wants. The tax base has been slowly leaving and the rest just don’t pay their taxes. Right before our eyes, Jackson, Mississippi is becoming the Republic of New Afrika. The dream of Edwin Finley Taliaferro (aka Chockwe Lumumba). Free the Land and then fence them in. They’ll never sustain with such incompetence.

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