Jackson’s water system is failing, the city has no or little water indefinitely

The drinking water system in Jackson — Mississippi’s largest city and home to more than 160,000 residents — is failing, state officials said Monday. Thousands of Jackson residents already have little or no water pressure, and officials cannot say when adequate and reliable service will be restored.

The city’s water system has been plagued with problems for years, including tens of thousands of residents losing water between one and three weeks during a 2021 winter storm.

At a Monday night press conference, Governor Tate Reeves said the city’s largest water treatment plants could be completely out of order.

“The OB Curtis plant is not operating at full capacity,” Reeves said. “We may find out tomorrow that it doesn’t work at all. We will have better visibility on this when we get to it tomorrow.

Reeves said he would sign an emergency declaration for the capital’s water system and create an “incident command center” to distribute water to residents of the city starting Tuesday morning.

“Until it’s fixed, that means we don’t have reliable running water on a large scale,” Reeves said. “That means the city can’t produce enough water to fight fires, flush toilets reliably and meet other critical needs.”

CONTEXT: ‘A deep betrayal of trust’: Why Jackson’s water system is broken

When Reeves announced the system was failing at 7 p.m. Monday, Jackson leaders, including Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, did not speak to the public about the water system failure. Lumumba declared a “water system emergency” around 6 p.m. Monday, saying in a statement that “the water shortage is expected to last for the next two days.”

Lumumba was not invited by Reeves to attend Monday night’s press conference. Although Reeves said he hasn’t spoken directly with the mayor, he said the city leader has agreed to work with state officials to resolve the issue. Mississippi State Health Department employees will work with city operators on Tuesday to try to get the plant back up and running.

“The operators (of the OB Curtis facility) have been heroic, but not heroic enough,” Reeves said, adding that city workers will be crucial in getting the plant back on track.

State Health Officer Dr Daniel Edney urged Jackson residents to ‘manage their water resources’ and boil their water for three minutes before using it for drinking, brushing teeth or cook.

Reeves revealed that he became aware of the possibility that OB Curtis could completely fail on Friday. State health officials told him the city is relying on backup pumps because the main pumps were “severely damaged” around the time the current boil water advisory is in effect. entered into force on July 29.

“We were told on Friday that there was no way to predict exactly when, but it was almost certain that Jackson would start running no water in the next few weeks or months if something happened. wasn’t materially improving,” Reeves said. “We began to prepare for a scenario where Jackson would be without running water for an extended period of time.”

The governor said his team began developing a water distribution plan over the weekend.

“It was all with the prayer that we would have more time before their system went down,” Reeves said. “Unfortunately, this failure seems to have started today.”

READ MORE: Flooding exacerbates Jackson’s water crisis, sparks calls for state intervention

On Tuesday, an incident command center will be set up and state employees will visit the OB Curtis water treatment plant to try to get it back into full operation. The plant has been operating at partial capacity for several days, Reeves said. For more than a month, the city has been under a boil water advisory issued by the state health department, but on Monday, due to the problems with the plant, a large part of Jackson lost water pressure.

Reeves said the first goal was to restore the quantity of water so people can flush the toilet and shower, then restore the quality to end the boil water advisory. .

As a short-term plan, Reeves said the state will fund upgrades, maintenance and emergency repairs, which will include contracting operators to help with the treatment plant. He said Mayor Lumumba had agreed to a plan under which the city would be responsible for half the cost of the operation.

“We will find a solution that will be great for the city of Jackson,” said Stephen McCraney, executive director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency. The governor, however, did not address long-term plans involving possible legislation to allocate public funds to provide a long-term solution to the struggling water system.

McCraney added that the Hinds County Emergency Management Agency has secured water for potential firefighting needs and that the state will bring water for both drinking and other uses. health needs.

He said it’s no different than what MEMA, in conjunction with the National Guard and other agencies, does after hurricanes. But as of Monday night, the governor had not activated the National Guard to assist Jackson’s crisis.

“It’s a huge undertaking,” McCraney said, adding “Mississippi State is good for distribution.”

Water will first be available at the city’s fire stations.

OB Curtis is expected to supply around 50 million gallons daily to the city while Fewell, the other main processing plant, supplies 20 million. Fewell was accelerated to provide 30 million.

Reeves said it’s unclear how much of Jackson is completely waterless.

The announcement comes after weekend flooding on the Pearl River caused some businesses and schools to close on Monday and prompted some leaders to call on the state to take action on the city’s water system.

Jackson Public Schools, one of the largest school districts in the state, announced late Monday that it will be moving to virtual learning “indefinitely” due to water shortages. Jackson State University announced Monday evening that it will hold classes virtually for the rest of the week, adding that water will be delivered to all residence halls and temporary restrooms will be available for students and faculty beginning Tuesday. morning.

READ MORE: Mississippi Today’s full coverage of Jackson’s water crisis







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