Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Jackson Water Plant Dysfunction Continued After EPA Order

  Collection of all posts on EPA Emergency Order

The pattern of neglect and disrepair continued at Jackson's water treatment plants in the weeks after the EPA ordered Jackson to immediately repair the plants last year.  While EPA demanded action, Jackson provided vague answers as it missed deadlines.  

The EPA issued the Emergency Administrative Order in March 2020 after it inspected Jackson's water treatment plants and found monitors, UV disinfectors, dosers, valves, and other necessary equipment were missing, broken, or improperly used at the two water treatment plants. Key monitor technician positions were vacant for years. 

The EPA required Jackson to submit an inventory  of all monitoring and treatment equipment.  The report was to include the conditions of the equipment, needed repairs, and the calibration of said equipment.  This website obtained the April 2020 report and EPA response through a public records request.  The reports are posted below

The follow-up reports and EPA responses. They don't paint a pretty picture as the EPA repeatedly chastised Jackson for sloppy record-keeping and a failure to repair the water treatment plants. 

One example is the infamous intake screens.  Jackson said a 60-inch sluice gate microscreen needed to be rehabbed while two sluice gates needed to be replaced.  EPA said the tasks were supposed to be completed by mid-April even though it had yet to do so. Deadline missed. The reports show a multitude of problems. 

11 of 32 butterfly valves were not working at Fewell. Butterfly valves regulate the flow of water and are easy to replace.

 9 actuators did not work at Fewell. Actuators are devices that control the valves as they perform a basic function in regulating the plant's water flow.  They are easy to replace.  

All 8 drives in the Fewell basins did not work.  The drives are used to operate the rakes in the clarifying tanks.  Clarifying tanks are settling tanks where sediment and other solids are removed from water.  The rakes operate at the bottom of the tank.  They push the settled solids to the center of the floor where they are removed.  If the drives don't work, the sludge is not removed.

One industry expert said allowing the drives to be inoperable was inexcusable.

Jackson tried to get by with vague and incomplete answers.  Remember the UV light disinfectors? Jackson said the UV sensors were working and just need to be calibrated by a technician.  Such vagueness did not pass muster with the EPA.  The agency wanted to know how often they were calibrated, what the process was for calibration, and  if they are operating properly. The UV sensors were not operating in January and February 2020.  The UV process in a water treatment plant is a kind of, sort of, a big deal. The UV light sterilizes the water, no small affair in making water safe for drinking.  The Fewell UV disinfectors didn't work for 2-4 weeks in January 2020.   UV replacement is not cheap and can cost six figures or more.  

The sludge handling facility was inoperable.

Jackson repeatedly missed deadlines in the order.  Jackson said it was evaluating the need for replacement of a current detector at O.B. Curtis.  The EPA said  nice try but Jackson was  supposed to have been completed that project by April 20 and asked for an update.   The city said the intake microscreen needed to be rehabbed.  EPA said it should have been done by April 20, 2020. Those are just a few of the missed deadlines in the reports. 

Competently-run water treatment systems keep meticulous records.  Unfortunately, meticulous seems to be a foreign word in the city's vocabulary.  The agency dinged Jackson over and over for not providing records.  Jackson told the EPA an air compressor "had been replaced."  The EPA asked "When?" Jackson said it calibrated the membrane filters at O.B. Curtis.  The EPA asked when they were calibrated and what was the plain to "maintain the calibration."  How often will they be calibrated?  The agency pointed out more than 30 days passed since the last calibration.  The stuff of record-keeping but Jackson either didn't have such records or chose not to provide them. 

Such examples populate the reports for both plants.

 Kingfish note: The Mayor and his minions squawk the drinking water is safe.  Drinking water safety wasn't the main water issue in February and March after the ice storms.  Jackson went without water for a month because the plants imploded.  The people have a right to know what the condition of the water treatment plants are before the storms, after the storms, and a year before the storms. 

The EPA makes clear Jackson neglected its water treatment plants for quite some time.  UV light disinfectors that sterilize water didn't work for weeks and months.  The follow-up reports state the intake screens needed replacing? Were they? That is sort of a big deal right now. 

How bad are these reports? One expert told JJ: 

The common violations that utilities experience is some employee taking a water sample on a windy day lets something blow into the sample jar, or doesn’t burn the sample site well, and you get a tainted sample.  This results in a mandatory boil water notice while you take samples to get released.  That happens to everyone, but even then it isn’t that common (maybe once every 10 years).

This just looks like bad record-keeping, failure to maintain equipment, and somebody that needs firing or properly trained.  That isn’t very common in my opinion in decent size systems.  Some of the very small systems (less than 200 meters) struggle sometimes because of money and not having full-time employees.

Unfortunately, the City Council does not seem interested in learning the state of Jackson's water treatment plants over the last year but is happy to use any excuse to avoid doing its job.  

The EPA responses cause one to wonder if the city took the order seriously.  


Anonymous said...

There is going to be some interesting propaganda and spin when diseases start spreading and ravaging the population. There are only a few places in the world that suffer these crisis. They are all third world. When was the last time people in the developed world suffered dysentery? Thats something you only still see in Africa or the Caribbean.

Anonymous said...

Why doesn't the EPA drop the hammer on Jackson? Paper tigers? Political influence/interference under Biden administration?

Anonymous said...

Are there any consequences for those in charge? Since it’s been a year, it appears not.

Anonymous said...

This is seriously third world level incompetence.
Look, nobody expects Antard or his entourage to personally go down there and fix these problems. They are just expected to have enough intelligence to know it is very important enough to hire an expert to fix these problems.

But he only understands how to tear down and destroy what others have built. He doesn’t know why they built it and that is a problem. He has no clue how to build or even maintain. He is occupying space and collecting a salary while it all decays around him.

Anonymous said...

Who is that city attorney with the ponytail? That dude is yeah, um, you know, uh, ok, you see, executive session, um, yeah, well.....on and on and on, and the city council sits up there like they are being mesmerized. It is absolutely sad! This whole govt should be a SNL skit

Anonymous said...

I feel sure the Biden bunch is protecting the good Mayor.

PittPanther said...

KF says "Unfortunately, the City Council does not seem interested in learning the state of Jackson's water treatment plants over the last year but is happy to use any excuse to avoid doing its job."

What exactly is the councils job? Even if they had been in there loop from the beginning, what could they have done to "force" the mayor and the public works chief to do differently?

Kingfish said...

EPA tends to move very sloooowly.

Anonymous said...

If the mayor withheld information about the lack of purification of the water and allowed people to drink it while not even trying to correct the problem, there should be charges filed against him.

Kingfish said...

Leave it to Pitt to defend any coverup.

1. There is the matter of telling the people what kind of shape their water plants are in. Period. There were and are in a serious state of disrepair. We have a right to know that, especially when we are going a month without water because they don't work.

2. It tells the City Council and public that money needs to be spend shoring them up. UV reactors are not cheap at all. We need to know what the real needs are and how much they will cost.

3. It also gives us the information to decide if we should go in another direction such as hiring a private management company. The Mayor has an ego and a very thin skin. He can't handle any questioning or criticism as seen by his behavior on this matter last week at the City Council. He may be loath to bring in an outside company but the City Council can move in that direction and perhaps it should.

There are other reasons but you get the idea. However, Pitt and others don't want to be told the truth and want their governments to lie to them.

Anonymous said...

This exchange (and cover-up) amounts to an indictment. The mayor is guilty (on the face of it) of hiding the truth, lying about it, and putting the public at risk.

Will the Attorney General act?

Anonymous said...

I'm fairly certain if the EPA wheels finally overcome intertia it will be what does Lumumba Jr. in.

Anonymous said...

The percentage of people who live in Jackson and actually care about this issue is probably 20%. And that might be generous. They don’t care.

Go Get Him, Josh ! ! ! said...

3:34 - Who's going to bring the charges against him? The Guv? The AG???? The City council??? The citizens band together and start a class action??? The ACLU??? htere ya go....the ACLU. Maybe ol josh tom thom whate ever his name is will saddle up and do it on behalf of the people of Jackson.

Anonymous said...

I would like to clarify something as I do work in the water industry. Everything in this report is inexcusable. I will not attempt to defend it because I can't. Heads should roll.

But also know that MSDH requires routine sampling. My guess is that Jackson took the required number of routine samples from various locations around the city. And the samples evidently passed. Therefore the city will say that even with all of these deficiencies at the water plant, the water itself was satisfactory to drink, and that fact was proven by the routine samples taken and submitted to MSDH, then passed by MSDH. That of course assumes Jackson didn't substitute the sample from somewhere else (another city), or didn't cook the sample.

But when dealing with public safety, you must be transparent with the public.

Anonymous said...

The Mayor has already spun the story in the MSM that this issue is entirely the fault of Institutional White Supremacy in the 20th century and that is the the narrative that will be repeated.
If this blows up like Flynt, Michigan do not expect an African American mayor to be portrayed as anything but a victim.

Anonymous said...

This all seems a little racist to me. I’m not sure why, but I’m sure someone in the EPA is white, and Lumumba is black. Something not right about this. If Lumumba say drank the water, I drank the water. If he say to eat the poo, I eat the poo. Who else can talk that intellectually and not be telling the truth. Lumumba for Life!!

Baby Chowke Sez: said...

"Jacksonians, you can't handle the truth."

Anonymous said...

Water is inherently racist

PittPanther said...

I don't want to be lied to. Lumumba's lack of transparency is inexcusable.

But this Jack sh*t city council wasn't (and now isn't) going to do anything positive to help the situation. They weren't going to take money away from other projects to fund the millions needed as described in the report.

Lumumba is basically negotiating with the feds for a compliance timeline that this city could actually meet, and probably with federal assistance. The council is completely useless. They can't negotiate with the feds because they don't have standing. And tell me what city agency they were gonna take money away from and give to the water department?

So stop sucking up to this useless council.

Anonymous said...

It's my understanding that this kind of information is required by federal law to be included in the annual Consumer Confidence Report. These are required to be published As well as mailed to every customer who received a water bill.
Oh wait...

Anonymous said...

All this is required of water systems to from killing people. This is not a bit funny.

Anonymous said...

Spend the damn Seimen's settlement money on fixing the water system!

Anonymous said...

Attn. 3:43 What is the definition of “intertia”? Also, 5:56, if you can find any of the “Siemens money”, please let us know.

Kingfish said...

City has spent $3 to $4 million or so on the zoo since 2019. Thats a good spot.

We could go to once a week garbage collection as other cities do. There are other things that could be done. Spin off Mynelle Gardens. Lease the planetarium to the museum of art. Get it off the books. Actually collect the damn water bills or set a minimum payment if no bill arrives. There are other things to do.

Anonymous said...

6:35 PM
a property of matter by which it remains at rest unless acted upon by an outside force, but you'd passed 9th grade physics. It's a metaphor dumbass.

Anonymous said...

This is similar to the PG &E lawsuit in California years ago. Erin Brocovich played by Julia Roberts showed the contaminants cause in the body where people had diseases and died. DEQ also gets records when EPA is involved so that may be another place for a records request.

PittPanther said...

Great suggestions, KF. Most of the council has been in those seats for years, why haven't they enacted a single one of those money saving changes? They haven't even discussed any of them, let alone pushed for any of them.

This is what Lumumba sees - a completely useless council, with no ideas, no foresight, no vision, no plans.

We need a new form of government in Jackson.

Anonymous said...

7:35 - yes. DEQ does get records when EPA is involved - with issues dealing with sanitary (sewage) and storm water.

Two different agencies, both have delegated authority with EPA. But for different things.

Jackson has a whole 'nuther set of issues with DEQ/EPA on sanitary sewer issues, including the in-place consent decree that they haven't done shit (pun intended) with over the past five years.

So now it appears that EPA might be dealing with Jackson's incompetence on both ends - going in and coming out - (again, pun intended) of the water through the Bold New Radical City.

Anonymous said...

I've watched this debacle from afar... I'm connected to a rural water association run by a bunch of hayseeds, and they have an impeccable record of water quality. It appears that these jokers have chosen, over a period of many years, to employ individuals who understand how to operate a utility and provide services to their customers who pay a monthly bill.

Simple math, which isn't applicable in Jackson.

Anonymous said...

DEQ won't do anything. Pointless agency. Will no one hold Jackson accountable?

Kingfish said...

Health Department handles drinking water, MDEQ handles sewer

Liability is only $500,000.

Anonymous said...

Question Begged: How many black Jackson plaintiffs' lawyers have the balls (figuratively speaking of course) to sue (on behalf of clients they can whip-up) a black city administration in a predominantly black city with blacks in charge of the municipal ? I'll start with 'none'.

Kingfish said...

Thats racist. Quite a few.

Dennis Sweet, Teri Harris, Anthony Simon, Lisa Ross, Carlos Tanner, the Martins, want me to keep on going?

Anonymous said...

What the F*$% has to happen for Jackson citizens to get competent leadership? Maybe it's time the volcano under the coliseum erupts.

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