Fact Check: Jackson Water Not Shutting Off Despite Social Media Misinformation

The City of Jackson, Miss., is not shutting off its water despite a raft of misinformation on social media that has driven panicked water usage amid a deep cold snap.

JXN Water spokesperson Ameerah Palacios dispelled the rumors in a press statement late Wednesday night.

“JXN Water plants are operating to provide Water for All. All the Time. That has not changed. We are not shutting the plants down tonight and we haven’t shut any water off. There are no widespread issues,” Palacios said.

But residents are reporting that the panic usage as people fill tubs with water in anticipation of a shutoff has already resulted in pressure issues in some parts of Jackson—especially in the south and west sections of the city furthest from the water plants. Those issues should abate once the misinformation-fueled panic does.

Across Facebook, posts warning that “water will be shut off tonight” spread rapidly on Wednesday with no sourcing. One reader noted that the misinformation may have begun after Jackson, Ky.—a tiny municipality of around 2,000 in the Bluegrass State’s Breathitt County—announced earlier today that it would have to shut its water off for six to eight hours to perform repairs.

Facebook screenshot says: Jackson Municipal Waterworks6h - Jackson Waterworks continues to work on a main water line break in the South Jackson area. Unfortunately, that means that it will be tomorrow before it is fixed completely, only because of the weather and temperature outside dropping so fast after sunset, which makes it unsafe for our field workers to do their job properly without any risk. We are so sorry for the inconvenience this has caused and pride ourselves on restoring water back to our customers as fast as we can, but there are many factors that have to be considered at this time. So, given the location of the break and the temperatures, it is a difficult repair to make. The outage will continue through the night, and we hope to have repairs completed by tomorrow afternoon. *Only Areas this includes Armory Drive, Railroad Street, Lick Branch Armory, Kings Branch and Cripple Creek areas. Intro Public Utility Company for water and sewer in certain areas of Breathitt County. # Page • Public Utility Company 333 Broadway St, Jackson, KY, United States, Kentucky (606) 666-2056 jacksonmunicipalwater.com Closed now v Not yet rated (0 Reviews)
This Jan. 17, 2024, advisory for a water shutoff is from Jackson, Ky., not Jackson, Miss. Via Facebook

In Jackson, Miss., both the O.B. Curtis and J.H. Fewell water treatment plants are producing roughly 60 million gallons of water a day to address the intense added usage of the cold water, with many residents dripping their faucets and filling their tubs in case of an outage.  

Additionally, although JXN Water reports immense progress on the water plants that were the most immediate cause of the weekslong outages in 2021 and 2023, Jackson’s beleaguered distribution system remains the foremost challenge for maintaining consistent water pressure across the city.

“Deliberate misinformation is being spread tonight to try to increase demand in the system and create pressure issues that impact your water service,” Palacios warned tonight.

a photo of Ted Henifin at a podium
JXN Water Interim Third-Party Manager Ted Henifin said on Jan. 12, 2024. Photo by Nick Judin

At a Friday press event, Ted Henifin, the federal receiver in charge of Jackson’s water system, acknowledged that although much work had been done to winterize the plants and stabilize the system, persistent, serious water loss issues continually complicated the city’s water pressure needs.

“We’ve got 14 crews standing by to isolate and fix the lines that break,” he said, adding that crews were scheduled to work overnight to avoid gaps in repair. In late 2022, when a hard freeze again damaged the system’s functionality, only two full crews were available for repairs, with a half crew working alongside them.

Henifin told this reporter at that press event that Jackson can produce up to 60 million gallons of water a day between both plants, an amount that the city continues to produce through the winter weather.

Jackson should not require this amount of water, even in high-stress circumstances like a deep freeze. But despite the city fixing many serious leaks, Henifin said the demands were failing to decrease.

“We still are looking for (leaks) and we find them and yet we’re not seeing the result in a decreased demand. We’re not sure if more is going out to the existing leaks that we haven’t found,” he admitted.

Now, as the system strains under the cold, Jackson faces two challenges: decayed infrastructure and the fragile, fleeting trust of residents.

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