Officials are at odds over whether the water in Mississippi’s capital city of Jackson and neighboring suburb Flowood is currently safe to drink.
On Thursday, the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) placed both cities – which have a combined population of over 160,000 – under a boil water notice after routine samples tested positive for E. coli.
But Ted Henifin, who leads Jackson’s third-party water managing system, has disputed those test samples, saying it is too coincidental for two separate water systems to have the same contamination on the same day.
“Having positive results from any system is unusual – having two positives from two different water systems seems highly suspect,” Henifin said. “Laboratories are not perfect. Mistakes are made. Typically, laboratories have standard operating procedures to validate samples – especially unusual and unexpected results – before taking action.”
Henefin added that the MSDH declined JXN Water’s request to retest samples before issuing the boil water notice.
“We requested the state lab do that before taking any action on the results from yesterday’s samples. They chose not to do that and issued a city-wide boil water notice.”
The MSDH sent out a release following Henifin’s comments, doubling down on its testing process but agreeing to expedite the tests of new samples from both Jackson and Flowood.
“The MSDH Public Health Laboratory (MPHL) followed all procedures and protocols in the testing process as outlined by the standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,” the statement read. “Officials in the MPHL don’t believe there was any contamination of the samples while in the lab and the results are not false positives. MPHL leadership has done a preliminary review of the lab protocols related to these results and are confident in their validity.”
In the meantime, Jackson and Flowood are both being kept under state-ordered boil water notices until two days of clear samples are obtained.
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