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City had plans to protect water system, but winter storms hit first, mayor says


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    JACKSON, Mississippi (WAPT) — Questions continue to arise about whether city leaders did enough prior to the winter and ice storms to prevent problems that caused the shutdown at the water treatment plant.

According to Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, there were plans in place to construct a covering to protect equipment from the extreme weather. However, the construction was not completed prior to the storms.

Leaders said the cost of the shelter to protect equipment at the OB Curtis Water Treatment Plant was around $3 million to contract with Hemphill Construction. The OB Curtis Water Treatment Plant is where the main issue lies on the water crisis.

“The engineering has already happened,” Lumumba said. “This is a purchase. We’re waiting on construction, but this weather came before that could happen.”

“With this membrane enclosure and structure, it will allow us to help keep the temperature at a certain climate during the summer and winter months,” Public Works Director Charles Williams said.

The question lies if the project had been completed before February’s ice storm, would those coverings have prevented a major shut down at the same plant that left thousands without water for more than two weeks? Williams said he does not fully think so.

“I think this is attributed to other issues at the plant,” Williams said.

Williams said if housing had been built before the storm, it would not have helped prevent a catastrophic shutdown.

City leaders have been discussing adding the covering at the water plant for more than four years.

“We hope by the end of this year, or close to early next year, it should be completed,” Williams said.

Meanwhile in a Tuesday news conference, Governor Tate Reeves said he will be having serious conversations about Jackson’s ongoing water crisis. He said he believes it’s important for the city to start collecting their water bill payments before they start asking others to give up money.

According to state leaders, an emergency has been declared at the state level regarding the ice storm. In order for a federal disaster declaration to be declared, counties must report damages and the state must meet the threshold of $4.5 million in damages statewide.

The City of Jackson can declare the water crisis as damages from the storm to receive federal assistance.

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