NPR reports the Jackson water crisis directly results from years of neglect to fix the city’s aging water system. Before last week’s rain caused massive flooding making Mississippi’s capital city’s drinking water undrinkable for more than 150,000 residents, Jackson was already struggling to fix its deteriorating system.
For years, residents of the majority-Black city have endured everything from service disruptions and recurring boil-water advisories to concerns over contaminants like lead and E. coli bacteria, thanks to failures to upgrade Jackson’s aging infrastructure.
With the city now under a state of emergency, officials are scrambling to distribute bottled water to tens of thousands of people in a city where roughly 1 in 4 people live in poverty. Amid the fledgling response, officials have sent mixed signals about how long it may take to restore service. City officials have said it could be “days,” but Gov. Tate Reeves has said it is unclear exactly how long it will take.
Sh*t hit the fan for the residents of Jackson after torrential rain caused the Pearl River, which runs through the city, to crest around 35 feet, according to the National Weather Service.
Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba announced in an emergency order on Monday (Aug.28) that the flooding “created problems with treating water” at the city’s main water-treatment plant, the O.B. Curtis Water Plant.
Jackson Residents Are No Strangers To Water Issues
NPR reports the city’s water issues were well-documented before the flooding, and the city sent out a state-issued boil water notice to its residents.
“It was a near certainty that Jackson would begin to fail to produce running water sometime in the next several weeks or months if something didn’t materially improve,” Governor Tate Reeves told reporters this week.
“Until it is fixed, it means we do not have reliable running water at scale,” Reeves revealed. “It means the city cannot produce enough water to fight fires, to reliably flush toilets, and to meet other critical needs.”
The residents of Jackson are all too familiar with this issue. In 2021 winter storms blanketed the city with ice causing pipes and water mains to burst, leaving tens of thousands of people without water, some for as long as three weeks, NPR reports.
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