City Water Issues Underscore Need for Independent Source on Campus

Exacerbated by record rain within the past week that resulted in area flooding throughout the capital city, water pressure throughout the City of Jackson began to drop during the overnight hours between Sunday and Monday, August 28 and 29. The college’s water pressure was at nine pounds per square inch (PSI) by 8:30 a.m. Monday morning, well below the 40 PSI level necessary to flush toilets, take showers and do laundry on campus.

Because Millsaps sits on one of the highest elevations in the city, flooding on campus has not been an issue. Unfortunately, however, other water challenges aren’t new to Millsaps Majors. The city has been under a boil water notice from the Mississippi State Department of Health for nearly a month, and students, faculty and staff have had to rely on bottled water for weeks on end. In February 2021, a winter storm severely impacted the city and shut down the water system for over two weeks. Mobile shower and restroom trailers were brought to campus at that time.

The same shower and restroom trailers were brought back to campus Monday evening.

“The college’s emergency management team (EMT) comes to the table with this kind of background and experience, and I’m thankful that over the past few days my colleagues have been able to meet the needs of our students during a tremendously stressful time,” says Millsaps President Rob Pearigen.

Classes transitioned to online-only on Monday to give students the ability to travel home, if preferred, in advance of the Labor Day weekend. “We wanted our students to have as many options as possible, especially without the benefit of a crystal ball to know when water pressure will return to normal,” adds Pearigen.  With the addition of state and federal resources to assist the city, the college hopes to resume normal operations for in-person classes on Tuesday, September 6.

What could replace the crystal ball, however, would be the college’s own water source – and that is what Millsaps is currently planning. Work will begin soon to drill two wells on campus and construct a 150,000-gallon water tank, ensuring water self-sufficiency and that issues in Jackson will no longer impact Millsaps. The wells will be drilled along the west side of campus, tapping into the Sparta Aquifer located approximately 800 feet underground. The nearly 200-foot-tall water tank will also be located on the west side of campus.

“This is a critically important project for our campus,” says Pearigen. “We simply must provide this most basic service to our students, faculty and staff.”

The total cost of the project is estimated at $4.1 million and has been approved by the college’s Board of Trustees. Millsaps has received a $1.5 million commitment from the Arkansas-based Windgate Foundation assuming the college will raise an additional $1 million in private donations by December 2022. To date, Millsaps has raised approximately $300,000 toward that goal, with gifts ranging from $1,000 to $100,000. Adds Pearigen, “We’re working diligently to address this water crisis, and are deeply grateful for any and all gifts to our Clean Water Campaign.”

Millsaps needs the help of our alumni and friends. There is no gift amount that’s too large or too small. Click here if you are interested in giving to the college’s Clean Water Campaign (designate “Clean Water Campaign” in the other area of support box), or contact the college’s Vice President of Institutional Advancement Marty Smith by emailing him or calling 601-974-1024.

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