Jackson, Mississippi, water: Gov. Tate Reeves will declare emergency as city’s main water facility fails

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The governor said he will declare a state of emergency for the state’s largest city and clamber for state authorities to begin distributing water to 180,000 residents.

The city’s murky water system has been plagued with problems for years. In February 2021, a winter storm shut down Jackson’s entire water system, leaving tens of thousands of residents without water for a month amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
On Monday night — as the residents of Jackson faced record rain that resulted in a dangerously high level of the Pearl River — Reeves announced that the city is not producing running water.

“It means we don’t have reliable running water at scale. It means the city can’t produce enough water to fight fires, reliably flush toilets and meet other critical needs,” Reeves said.

As a result, officials have announced that all public schools in Jackson will switch to virtual learning on Tuesday.
The water pressure issue is in addition to a boiling water alert from the past month due to a water quality issue.

Authorities said the water is not safe to drink or use while brushing teeth.

“Please stay safe. Don’t drink the water. In too many cases, it’s raw water from the reservoir being pushed through the pipes,” Reeves told the Jackson residents. “Be smart, protect yourself, protect your family.”

Residents are told to conserve the water sources they have and boil water they use for three minutes.

The state is expected to call in the National Guard to help distribute drinking and non-drinking water while crews work to get the water treatment plant back online, state officials said.

“Replacing the running water infrastructure in our largest city with human distribution is a hugely complicated logistical task,” Reeves said. “We need to provide it for up to 180,000 people for an unknown period of time.”

In addition to preparing to distribute water to residents, the state is in the process of setting up a tanker system to supply water to fire trucks as Jackson is no longer able to get water from fire hydrants, officials said.

A system that has long been plagued with problems

The problem stems from one of two water treatment plants in the city, the OB Curtis plant, which is run by the city of Jackson, the governor said. “OB Curtis isn’t working anywhere near capacity. And maybe tomorrow we’ll find out it isn’t working at all,” Reeves said.

OB Curtis aims to provide approximately 50 million gallons daily for the city. The other plant, which usually supplies about 20 million gallons a day, has been approved to ramp up production amid the shortage, authorities said.

The main pumps at OB Curtis were badly damaged, and the facility began operating smaller backup pumps about a month ago, around the same time that a lengthy boil water message began, the governor said.

The governor said he was told Friday that “it was almost certain that Jackson would not produce running water sometime in the coming weeks or months if something didn’t improve substantially,” the governor said.

Over the weekend, state officials began developing plans for water distribution and “preparing for a scenario where Jackson would be without running water for an extended period of time.”

“All of this was with the prayer that we would have more time before their system failed,” Reeves said. “Unfortunately, that failure seems to have started today.”

Jackson mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba declared a state of emergency in the water system on Monday and said recent flooding of the Pearl River was the cause of the latest water pressure problems.

“As one crisis can be diverted, another emerges,” Lumumba said at a news conference after dealing with the city’s flooding.

The mayor said that because OB Curtis received additional water from the reservoir during the flood, the facility had to change the way the water is treated, which has resulted in less water in the system and lower tank levels. This will affect water pressure in residents’ homes, he said.

'Get out now': Mayor urges residents to flee Mississippi's rising river

“It’s no secret to any of us that we have a very vulnerable water treatment plant,” the mayor said, adding that the outage “could potentially last a few days.”

Jackson has had ongoing problems with its water system, and some residents have already reported low to no water pressure and raw sewage flowing into city streets and neighborhoods.
Lumumba previously told CNN that a lack of political will and years of neglect at the national level have kept Jackson from getting the help it needs to solve the water and sewer crisis.

In addition to the infrastructure problems, the factory has also had to deal with personnel problems, according to the mayor and governor.

“A far too small number of heroic frontline workers did their utmost to keep the system together, but it was almost impossible,” the governor said.

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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