After failure of water pump systems in Jackson, Mississippi, residents do not have access to clean water and are under a boil advisory.
But what is being done to solve the problem?
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Mississippi responds to water crisis in Jackson
The state of Mississippi is making efforts to respond to the failure of the water treatment system. Governor Tate Reeves issued a state of emergency in response to the water crisis in the city. The Mississippi National Guard was also activated to provide assistance to the city of Jackson and surrounding areas.
Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba held a press briefing to provide updates on the city’s water treatment repair plans. The emergency rental raw water pump has been successfully installed at the O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant. Residents have experienced fluctuating water pressure, but it should stabilize soon. J.H. Fewell Water Treatment Plant is now running at normal capacity and the city well water system tanks are stable.
Residents are still under a boil advisory. This means they are advised to boil their water for drinking, cooking and cleaning dishes. It is not necessary to do this for washing clothes, hands or when bathing.
The O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant is still dealing with interruptions, but have still made notable progress. However, state officials could not provide a timeline of when Jackson residents can expect to have safe, reliable and clean drinking water.
Jackson is working towards an agreement with a third-party contractor to help with operations and management of the city’s two water treatment plants. The city is also considering retired operators to help fill staffing shortages at those plants.
Lumumba thinks the city’s ongoing water issues are a result of decades of deferred maintenance and staffing shortages. People are being trained to become certified water operators but the training process is extensive.
Sampling of drinking water has been paused due to the loss in water pressure. Technicians need two straight days of clean water samples to lift the citywide boil water notice.
Biden approves emergency declaration in Jackson
President Joe Biden recently approved Mississippi’s emergency declaration. Biden ordered Federal assistance to supplement response efforts by the state. This declaration will allow the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate disaster relief efforts. FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide, equipment, and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency, at their discretion.
Direct federal assistance will be provided at 75% Federal funding for 90 days as an emergency protective measure.
What is day to day life like with no water?
Residents in Jackson, Mississippi are still finding ways wo cope with no clean water to drink, cook with, or even enough to bathe or flush the toilet. Jackson has a history of water problems, but this summer, pumps at the main water treatment facility were damaged. Then, flooding of the Pearl River after some heavy rains impacted the treatment process. There is not enough water pressure to serve about 180,000 people in the city.
The impacts go beyond those listed above. For example, residents have shared that they have been collecting rain water to brush their teeth and flush their toilets. Some of Jackson’s University of Mississippi Medical Center facilities are also experiencing problems as a result of the water crisis. The Jackson Medical Mall air conditioning is not functioning properly because the water pressure feeding the chillers is too low.
There is a growing concern that in the case of a fire, there will be no water to fight it. Water will be brought into the city in tankers and organized for fire safety and life safety as well as for sanitation.
Cars waited in line for more than two and a half hours, in some cases, for a 24 pack case of 12 ounce water bottles. After waiting for so long, many reached the front of the line to find that the supply was gone. In some cases, residents have been traveling in order to find clean water to bring home.
The water crisis goes beyond daily tasks. Now, Jackson Public Schools and Jackson State University are holding virtual classes because they have no water. Numerous businesses have also had to temporarily close as well.
Jackson State football team is stressed after water crisis forces them off campus
As mentioned above, schools in Jackson, Mississippi have moved to a virtual setting amid the water crisis. However, that has left the Jackson State football team feeling stressed over the preparation for their season opener after being forced off campus.
Head coach Deion Sanders announced that he is moving the players off campus so they can have access to basic needs like showers and functioning toilets. He is describing the current operation of the program as crisis-mode.
Restaurants are feeling the impact too
Chef Derek Emerson, the owner of Walker’s Drive In, said his Jackson location is losing profit. Supplying ice and drinks to customers without charge is forcing up the price of food to make up for lost profits.
Emerson also shared that he needed to use restaurant funds to rent a 500-gallon water tank to use when water pressure is too low. The water tank is costing more than a $2,000 to rent for two weeks at time. He said that he wants city and state officials to be held responsible for Jackson’s water crisis.