Mississippi’s capital, Jackson, will be indefinitely without reliable drinking water, officials said after pumps at the main water treatment plant went out on Monday, prompting the emergency distribution of bottled water and tank trucks to 180,000 people.
The city linked the failure to complications from the Pearl River flooding, but Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves, who declared a state of emergency, said the cause was unknown and the city-operated water treatment plant was poorly managed and understaffed. been. year.
In any case, Jackson—with 150,000 residents and 30,000 in surrounding communities—could be without running water indefinitely. And officials warned anyone with access to tap water should boil it for three minutes.
Jackson is over 80% black or African American, according to US Census data.
“Don’t drink the water,” Reeves said at a hastily convened press conference. “In too many cases, it’s raw water from the reservoir being pushed through the pipes.”
The city said recent Pearl River flooding caused by torrential rains has caused complications at the OB Curtis water treatment plant, which sits next to a reservoir that drains into the river just north of the city.
For a month now, the city has been warned to boil all the tap water they plan to drink.
Reeves said the motors that power the plant’s pumps have recently failed, forcing them to run on backup pumps, which failed Monday. The state planned to set up an incident command center at the plant early Tuesday, hoping to restore operations.
“Until it’s resolved, it means we don’t have reliable, scale-up flowing water,” Reeves said. “It means the city can’t produce enough water to fight fires, reliably flush toilets and meet other critical needs.”
The crisis exposed a rift between Republican governor and Democratic mayor of Jackson, Chokwe Antar Lumumba.
Reeves said he did not invite Lumumba to Monday’s press conference, saying: “I cannot comment on what effect the floods have or have not had.”
The city operates the area’s two water treatment plants, the OB Curtis plant, which treats 50 million gallons (227,300 cubic meters) per day, and the Fewell plant, whose normal production was increased from 20 million to 30 million gallons, they said. officials.
As water pressure dropped throughout the system, officials could not guarantee running water and did not know how many homes were affected.
Meanwhile, Jackson’s public school district said it would switch its students to online learning starting Tuesday.
The city and state both distributed bottled drinking water and non-potable water for toilets, which the governor called a “hugely complicated logistical task.”