The O.B. Curtis Water Plant in Jackson. Credit: Alex Rozier/Mississippi Today

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On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency sent Jackson a notice of non-compliance over water system deficiencies, the third time in the last two years the agency has done so.

The letter refers to a report the Mississippi State Department of Health sent to the city on Dec. 14, which found that an electrical panel that broke during a fire at the O.B. Curtis water treatment plant last April had still not been repaired.

The malfunction forced pumps at the plant to shut down and reduced water pressure for parts of Jackson, the EPA letter details.

A follow-up MSDH inspection in November found that the pumps were still out of service and the city had no target date for re-installing them. The MSDH report from December requires the city to fix the issue by April 14, 2022.

The EPA letter says the resulting loss of pressure in the distribution system allows for water outside of the pipes to seep in, creating “a suitable environment for bacteriological contamination and other disease-causing organisms, including E.coli.”

In a press release, the EPA added that it would send letters to elected officials advocating that the $79 million provided to Mississippi under the federal infrastructure bill be used on Jackson’s water system.

The EPA’s warning comes two months after Administrator Michael Regan’s visit to Jackson to see the treatment plant in person and speak with concerned residents and officials. That very day, the city had to shutdown the conventional side of O.B. Curtis after using a bad batch of chemicals to treat the water, leading to a boil water notice and low pressure in south and west Jackson.

The agency previously sent letters of non-compliance in April 2021 and May 2020, which listed over a dozen violations of state health code, ranging from staffing issues, equipment monitoring, and treatment technique.

This week, the city is again attempting to restore pressure in south Jackson after a set of water line leaks and a membrane train failure at O.B. Curtis. City workers along with the Mississippi Rapid Response Coalition have distributed bottled water to affected residents at the intersection of Raymond and McDowell roads in front of Cash Saver. Impacted residents can find out about water distribution by calling the city at 601-624-0637.

READ MORE: Jackson water crisis again impacts schools


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Alex Rozier, from New York City, is Mississippi Today’s data and environment reporter. His work has appeared in the Boston Globe, Open Secrets, and on NBC.com. In 2019, Alex was a grantee through the Pulitzer Center’s Connected Coastlines program, which supported his coverage around the impact of climate change on Mississippi fisheries.