Water Crisis in Jackson, Mississippi: EPA staff find the city’s water department understaffed, creating a gap between routine and preventive maintenance, the report says.


During a site visit in March 2022, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency staff found that the City of Jackson, Mississippi, was understaffing its water system and, as a result, had to temporarily and preventively close portions of the system. I discovered that there was no maintenance going on. gone.

The findings of the March 2022 EPA site visit were summarized in the July 2022 report prepared by Process Applications, Inc. The report was provided to his CNN by the Mississippi Department of Health, and the Mississippi Free Press first reported its existence.

“There are not enough operators to consistently deploy three shifts seven days a week,” said a report during a site visit. It also said the water department was unable to conduct preventative maintenance due to not having enough plant and distribution system staff.

Processing plant operators received pay increases in November 2021, but maintenance and equipment technicians, as well as distribution system crews, did not. The report identified that there was a “loss of staff in these roles” which was consistent with a lack of salary increases.

The report also found that the city did not collect or record system pressure data, did not regularly flush the distribution system, did not document valve locations and operating conditions, or It also points out that maintenance is not being performed. fire hydrant.

According to the report, proper staffing not only optimizes system operations, but can also help reduce overall operating costs.

The City of Jackson did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment on the report. At a press conference on Tuesday, Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said he was “keeping up with all the community recruitment efforts,” in response to an EPA official’s comments on the water department’s staffing, adding that 10 people were in class. said he was training to become a water operator in It will take up to 6 years to complete.

However, the mayor did not say whether the city has hired new staff for the water department (recommendations in the report), instead saying the city remains transparent about staffing shortages and maintenance delays. .

Infrastructure issues aside, the city of Jackson is also having major problems generating revenue from its water system, which has actually declined since 2016, the report notes.

About 50% of the water in the system is “non-revenue water”. That is, water that has not been billed or received payment for.

A plant manager told EPA investigators during a visit in March that “water meter failures have reduced revenues by 32% since 2016.”

The city is replacing its water meters, a process that is expected to take 18 months, but the report said there is “uncertainty as to whether the new meters will be able to communicate with the billing system.” I’m here.

But even the billing system isn’t working, the report said, and the problem isn’t expected to be resolved “until late 2024.”

The city told EPA staff in March that about 14,000 bills were “left behind,” meaning they were never sent or received by water customers.

Billing system issues prevented the City of Jackson from providing a complete customer list to the EPA team, as well as calculating the actual collection rate.

Source: www.cnn.com

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