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Metro businesses affected by water worries (UPDATE)

Kentwood water employee delivers water to the Mississippi Capitol on Tuesday.

Kentwood Water employee delivers water to the Mississippi Capitol on Tuesday.

While Jackson area schools and many businesses have closed due to the water crisis, some entities have procured portable restrooms to stay in business.

The state Legislature has managed to stay in session due to parking portable sanitary units on the front lawn.

Regarding the johns at the Capitol, Rep. David Norquist of Cleveland said, “I will go out there to do half of what I need to do, but I won’t do the other half.” Norquist said he is sure the city is working very diligently to restore water service. “I think everyone here is being very patient, but at the same time I think their patience is strained. If this doesn’t get fixed in the next couple of days, I don’t think people will be quite as patient… I am concerned this is going to be a fair indication of how the year is going to be,” he said.

The weekend Arctic Blast sustained Jackson’s most significant cold spell in more than 20 years. Temperatures stayed below freezing for more than 60 hours, resulting burst pipes that shut down state buildings and schools on Monday, Jan. 11. As the ground thawed more ruptured pipes were still being discovered at press time.

Some buildings were without water and others experienced low pressure. Gov. Haley Barbour issued a state of emergency for the city, and Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson asked residents to conserve water and boil all drinking water for at least one minute as a precaution.

Flora-based Gotta Go Toilets can’t deliver its portable restrooms fast enough.

“The economic impact has been wonderful for us. We just cannot get the toilets out the door fast enough,” said owner Lauren McGraw.

Although McGraw is certainly not rejoicing about residents’ inconvenience, the company is happy to be able to serve those in need, McGraw said. Gotta Go’s priority is to first serve the state agencies, hospitals, nursing homes, energy companies, schools and colleges, she said. The company is currently unable to deliver to entities only wanting only one or two units, but those customers can pick up their own rentals, McGraw said.

Gotta Go has already issued around 2,000 units in the Jackson area, but “we’re not going to run out,” McGraw said. The company can get more shipped in from other states.

Prices on the units vary depending on mileage for delivery, the number of days rented, the number of times serviced, how quickly delivery was needed, and of course, the crisis situation, which can increase prices.

Amy Turnipseed of the StateStreet Group, which owns four properties in the Jackson area, said low water pressure affects restrooms, fire safety equipment and HVAC equipment. The group closed one of its properties for a partial day on Monday.

“We cannot provide a functional office environment without restroom capabilities and sufficient fire safety equipment. In order to open the doors again, we ordered portable restroom facilities for all of our buildings costing $75 per unit plus miscellaneous fees for cleaning, etc. We also assigned 24 hour patrol of the interior and exterior of the building to monitor fire and safety issues that could possibly arise,” Turnipseed said.

Clark Ware, manager of the Holiday Inn Express near the Jackson Coliseum said the water problem “sucks.” The hotel has water, although the pressure is low. Guests can take showers, they’re just not great showers, Ware said.

The hotel has been using bottled water for coffee and juices and giving guests bottled water to brush their teeth. For the most part guests understand the problem is with city infrastructure and not the hotel, Ware said.

Mayor Johnson asked citizens to “use water only when absolutely necessary” and reports leaks to the Public Works department. He could not provide an estimate as to when the situation would be rectified.

“We have not seen this type of strain on the water system since 1989,” he said.

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Water pipes burst in the Jackson metro area over the weekend causing Gov. Haley Barbour to declare a state of emergency in the city. State offices and many public schools closed at noon on Monday.

Low water pressure causes sanitary issues in buildings and also poses a fire hazard.

The city of Jackson Public Works Department could not answer questions about whether residents should boil water even after Mayor Harvey Johnson gave an afternoon interview to local TV station WLBT recommending that citizens boil as well as conserve water.

City Public Works media contact, Chris Mims, did not answer phone calls.

The City of Jackson web site does not show information about the emergency situation.

Johnson said the city was experiencing low water pressure due to “sub-freezing weather… it puts a stress on the system that it hasn’t seen since 1989.” We need water lines to be replaced, “but this incident is because of the freezing conditions…over the last week or so,” Johnson said in the WLBT interview.

Johnson could not offer a time frame of when the situation would be rectified.

The city of Jackson Public Works Department web site offered no information on the situation. The Governor’s web site referenced a Clarion-Ledger story about the water issue.


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About Amy McCullough