Pallets of bottled water are moved in place for distribution at the Mississippi Trade Mart in Jackson, Miss., Thursday, September 1, 2022. Credit: Eric Shelton/Mississippi Today

In their first shared press conference since both declaring states of emergency for the city’s rundown water system, Gov. Tate Reeves and Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba detailed progress made in restoring pressure to residents on Thursday.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency also launched seven “mega” distribution sites around the city at noon, working in conjunction with other state agencies as well as 600 members of the National Guard.

Since the governor’s Monday announcement that Jackson’s water treatment plant would soon begin to fail, pressure coming out of residents’ taps has fluctuated significantly. With no true estimate on the number of homes impacted, the city said that most of the over 40,000 surface water connections saw low or no pressure after setbacks on Wednesday.

Optimal pressure at the O.B. Curtis treatment plant is 87 pounds per square inch (PSI). After falling on Monday, the pressure climbed back up to 80 PSI on Tuesday morning, before dropping back down to 40 PSI on Wednesday, the city said. Officials said Thursday morning that it was back up to 78 PSI.

Tempering expectations, Reeves told residents Wednesday to expect further setbacks in the coming days as the city and state — now aided by contractors assessing the plant — address the array of needed repairs at O.B. Curtis.

According to MEMA’s daily action report, State officials had, as of Wednesday, completed assessments of both the conventional and membrane sides of the plant, and used those to make a priority list for improvements. They also installed a temporary pump, and fixed another pump at the city’s secondary plant J.H. Fewell.

In the report, officials reiterate that both O.B. Curtis and J.H. Fewell lack sufficient Class A operators and maintenance staff.

Asked on Thursday what repairs were at the top of the priority list, Reeves said he didn’t have a full answer, but that fixing sensors to detect the pH levels ranked highly. He also said that one of the failed pumps at O.B. Curtis — which contributed to the city’s water pressure dropping in early August — may be back online by early next week.

Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson said since Monday, 145,000 gallons of fresh water were pumped from the state fairgrounds into tankers to support the state health lab, the Jackson Medical Mall, and the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration.

MEMA executive director Stephen McCraney said that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers arrived in Jackson Thursday morning to assess the city’s pumps. Mississippi Department of Public Safety Commissioner Sean Tindell and State Forester Russell Bozeman added that their agencies are helping to enforce safety measures at the distribution sites as well as facilitate transporting water to the sites, respectively.

Lumumba later spoke to the fact he and Reeves were finally appearing at a press conference together.

“I believe that my representation here is a symbol of the unity that is taking place, a symbol of a coalition that is working arm in arm to ensure that we keep the most primary focus on the residents of Jackson,” Lumumba said.

In MEMA’s daily action report for Wednesday, the agency reported that O.B Curtis produced 5 million gallons of water from its conventional side, down from 14 million on Tuesday, and 12 million from the membrane side, down from 16 million on Tuesday.

Use this link to see the updated list of distribution sites. Residents unable to pick up water in person can call MEMA’s crisis line at 1-833-591-6362

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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.