Boil water notice lifted for Jackson, Mississippi, after E. coli scare

An boil water alert was also issued for the city of Flowood.

January 12, 2024, 7:21 PM

A boil water notice for Jackson, Mississippi, has been lifted a day after the state's health department told residents that routine water samples tested positive for E. coli.

The Mississippi State Department of Health said the move was done in accordance with Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

Ted Henifin, Jackson's interim water manager, had refuted the state's initial findings, saying they "caught us off guard" and suggested the state's lab results could be a "false positive."

"This is setting us back maybe a year. It’s taken everything we can do to get a few more people in this city to drink tap water and have trust in it," Henifin said at a news conference on Thursday, according to The Associated Press.

Henifin was appointed third-party manager of the Jackson water system by a federal judge in 2022 amid a water crisis in Mississippi's capital city that left residents without easy access to clean water for days and sometimes weeks at a time.

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of Escherichia coli, grown in culture and adhered to a cover slip.
BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

JXN Water said in a statement Friday that repeat testing of the samples confirmed that E. coli was not present in the water system and that the initial test was likely a false positive.

The Mississippi State Department of Health said its Public Health Laboratory reviewed lab protocols and the results were not false positives.

"In spite of the allegations made by the City of Jackson Water Supply, the Mississippi State Department of Health stands behind the initial test results that indicated the presence of E. coli in the City of Jackson's surface water," the health department said in a press release on Friday. "Upon review, all evidence supports that these test results were true positives."

The state health department had also issued a boil water notice for the city of Flowood, impacting nearly 28,000 customers, on Thursday. Health officials said Friday that water samples from the city are "currently undergoing analysis."

"Health officials strongly recommend that all water be boiled vigorously for one minute before it is consumed," the Mississippi State Department of Health said in its boil water alert for the city. "This precaution will last at least two full days and water system officials will be immediately notified when the boil water alert is lifted."

The presence of the bacteria could indicate the water may be contaminated with "human or animal wastes," which "generally results from a problem with the treatment process or pipes which distribute the water," the health department said.

"The safety and protection of the public is the top priority of the Mississippi State Department of Health," the state health department said in a news release on Thursday. "The MSDH looks forward to its continued partnership with both the City of Jackson and City of Flowood to keep the water systems safe for all their citizens."

State health officials advise residents under the boil water alert to not drink tap water or drink from water fountains in parks, public or private buildings that receive water from the affected systems. They should not use ice unless it's been made with boiled water.

Impacted residents should wash their dishes, fruits and vegetables with boiled water and brush their teeth with boiled or bottled water.

"Bringing water to a rolling boil for one minute will inactivate all major types of harmful bacteria," the health department said.

Symptoms of an E. coli infection include severe stomach cramps, watery or bloody diarrhea and vomiting, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some infections are very mild, but others are severe or even life-threatening, according to the CDC.

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