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New test of water in Mississippi capital negative for E. coli bacteria, city water manager says


JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The day after Mississippi health officials told residents in the state’s capital that dangerous bacteria could be in their tap water, a new round of test results did not find E. coli in Jackson's supply, the city's water manager said Friday.

Ted Henifin, Jackson's interim water manager, said repeat samples taken from the city's water system tested negative for E. coli. The new round of results, which were collected from the same locations where state officials reported positive results the day before, show the previous test was a false positive, Henifin said.

At a Thursday news conference, Henifin said state officials refused to validate the lab results before issuing the boil water notice.

“I still do not understand why the Mississippi Department of Health issued the city-wide boil water notice before confirming the initial results," Henifin said. "The damage to confidence in our water system and economic impact to our area businesses is enormous.”

The Mississippi Department of Health did not immediately respond to an email about the new test results.

State health officials imposed boil-water notices in Jackson and the nearby suburb of Flowood following positive results in both cities Thursday. The bacteria’s presence indicated that the water may have been contaminated with human or animal waste, the department said.

Henifin said it was unlikely that samples from Jackson and Flowood would be contaminated at the same time because the cities’ water systems are not connected.

The boil-water notice is still in effect because officials must obtain clean results from 120 sample locations for two consecutive days.

A federal judge appointed Henifin in November 2022 to oversee reforms to Jackson’s long-troubled water system after infrastructure breakdowns during the late summer of that year caused many city residents to go days and weeks without safe running water.


Michael Goldberg is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow him at @mikergoldberg.