Jackson, Mississippi, water crisis leaves residents with no running water, a hospital without air conditioning and schools moved online

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Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves announced that the capital’s main water treatment plant began to fail Monday, meaning it could not produce enough water to fight fires, reliably flush toilets and meet other critical needs.

Cassandra Welchlin, a mother of three, told CNN that her children don’t go to school and they had to buy water for cooking, brushing their teeth and other basic needs.

Welchlin, executive director of the Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable, said brown water flows from her faucets. “We still wouldn’t use that water. We don’t boil it to do anything with it because there’s grit in the water,” she said. “It’s a very bad problem for public safety.”

Jackson resident Jeraldine Watts said Monday he was able to get hold of some of the last bottles of water bottles in a supermarket. She and her family use bottled or boiled tap water for everything, including cooking and washing dishes.

“I keep saying we’re going to be the next Michigan,” Watts said, “and it looks like that’s exactly where we’re headed.”

Flint, Michigan, was hit by a water crisis in 2015, when contaminated drinking water with lead and other toxins was discovered in homes and residents reported children suffering from mysterious illnesses.

In Mississippi, Reeves declared a state of emergency, activated the Mississippi National Guard and said the state is sending resources to the city and beginning emergency maintenance. “We will do everything we can to restore water pressure and get the water flowing back to the people of Jackson,” he said.

The water crisis is turning almost all aspects of life in the city upside down, where public schools switched to virtual learning on Tuesday.

Jackson’s University of Mississippi Medical Center said the air conditioning in one facility is not working properly and portable toilets are being used in other facilities.

At Jackson State University, there is “low to no water pressure at all campus locations,” and water is provided to students, officials said. The university’s head football coach, Deion Sanders, said the football program is in “crisis mode.”

As crews work to get the water treatment plant back online, members of the National Guard are distributing bottled water, state officials said, but those efforts seemed unsustainable Tuesday.

During a water distribution event at Hawkins Field Airport, residents were turned away when the site ran out of 700 boxes of water in just two hours.

A water tower is on display in Jackson, Mississippi on Tuesday.

Long-term problems with Jackson’s problem water system

The problem this week stems from one of two water treatment plants in the city, the OB Curtis plant, which is struggling with a staff shortage and three decades of deferred maintenance, according to Jackson mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba.

The main pumps at the plant were recently badly damaged, and it started running on smaller backup pumps about a month ago — around the time the latest boiling water report started — making a breakdown increasingly likely, the governor said.

Flooding of the Pearl River after recent heavy rainfall impacted treatment processes and thus the amount of running water the system can supply, Lumumba said.
The water crisis in Jackson, Mississippi, has gotten so bad that the city temporarily ran out of bottled water to give to residents

“I’ve said several times that it’s not a question of whether our system would fail, but a question of ‘when’ our system would fail,” the mayor said, adding that the city “has been doing it on its own for years.” the better part of two years” when it comes to the water crisis.

Reeves said the state would share the cost of emergency repairs with the city, but the mayor said it would cost $2 billion to completely repair and replace the aging system and that’s money the city doesn’t have. “We don’t have the money to deal with 30 years of neglect,” the mayor told CNN.
In early 2020, the Jackson water system failed an Environmental Protection Agency inspection, which found that the drinking water had the potential to harbor harmful bacteria or parasites.
In February 2021, a severe winter storm hit, freezing and bursting the pipes, leaving many residents without water for a month.

“Since that time, there hasn’t been a month where we haven’t experienced no-flow to low-flow in certain areas of southern Jackson, and so it’s very frustrating,” Jackson City Councilman Aaron Banks told CNN.

“The sad thing about it — and the sad reality — is that this is kind of becoming a norm and we deserve a better quality of life here in the capital city of Jackson, Mississippi,” Banks said.

In July 2021, the EPA and the city signed an agreement to “address long-term challenges and make necessary improvements to the drinking water system.” The EPA also recently announced $74.9 million in federal water and sewage infrastructure funds for Mississippi.

Signs restrict water purchases at a Kroger in Jackson, Mississippi on Tuesday.

What does the government do?

Lumumba told CNN’s Pamela Brown that the city is working on more water distribution events.

According to Lt. Col. Stephen McCraney, director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, ten truckloads of water are expected to arrive in Jackson, and more than 108 semi-trucks of water will arrive in the next few days.

Beginning Thursday, there will be seven mega-distribution locations each with 36 truckloads of water a day available to the public, McCraney said.

Companies such as Anheuser-Busch, Walmart and Save A Lot, as well as volunteer organizations also donate water to the city, he added.

"Water is a human right": City of Jackson still urgently needs infrastructure aid to fight water crisis

Banks said the city also provides flushing water. “One of the first things we realized is that people need to be able to flush, because that becomes a problem to make sure people have the quality of life that they need,” he said.

“Ultimately, we need a solution and the same attention that was given to Flint, Michigan, we need the same attention to Jackson,” Banks said.

Reeves said FEMA has received the statement asking the federal government to declare the water shortage a federal emergency.

President Joe Biden has been briefed on the Jackson water crisis and the White House has “made it clear that the federal government stands ready to help,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday.

“FEMA is working closely with state officials to identify needs, and the EPA is coordinating with industry partners to accelerate the delivery of critical treatment equipment for emergency repairs at the city of Jackson’s water treatment facilities,” she said.

Amir Vera, Amanda Musa and Amy Simonson of CNN contributed to this report.


The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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