Water drop-offs in Jackson, but no timeline for fixing city plumbing

Southeast

JACKSON, Miss. (NewsNation) — Mississippi officials have set up emergency distribution centers for handouts of water and hand sanitizer in the capital city of Jackson, but did not provide a timeline Thursday for when normal, safe water would flow to residents.

There are about 600 National Guard members helping to run seven water sites across the city for people to receive drinking water and bulk, non-potable water.

The sites opened at noon on Thursday and will be open for water pickup daily until further notice, according to a news release from the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

Residents remain under a boil-water order after flooding from the Pearl River exacerbated long-standing problems at one of the city’s two water treatment plants.

Republican Gov. Tate Reeves and Jackson’s Democratic Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said progress is being made at the treatment plan, especially with the installation of a new pump on Wednesday.

“To everyone in the city: I know that you are dealing with a profoundly unfair situation,” Reeves said in remarks aimed at city residents. “It’s frustrating, it’s wrong and it needs to be fixed.”

The water crisis affects the city’s 150,000 residents — many of whom were unable to take showers or flush toilets — plus an estimated 30,000 who come into the city to work at businesses without water pressure, Reeves said.

A member of the Mississippi National Guard loads a vehicle as they distribute water to residents near downtown Jackson, Mississippi, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022. A recent flood worsened Jackson’s long-standing water system problems. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

President Joe Biden issued an emergency declaration in Jackson on Tuesday.

“We are doing everything we can to make sure we’re helping the people of Mississippi,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday. “We are in close touch.”

The administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Deanne Criswell, is planning to visit Jackson on Friday, the White House says.

Jackson is no stranger to water issues. There have been recorded problems with the city’s water system since it was installed. The first call to upgrade the water system was in 1948, yet many of those same pipes are still used today.

In the 1970s, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its first warning about the water system’s quality. Winter storms in 1989, 1994, 2010 and 2024 all caused multi-week water outages in the city.

Some have blamed decades of disinvestment in Jackson and experts and city leaders have linked that to systemic racism.

Ashley Tosé, a Jackson resident who is seven months pregnant, told NewsNation she’s concerned for her child’s future.

“So, I am going to have a Black son. And to have a city that has poor schools, poor roads, grocery stores running out of food and no water to drink. I honestly don’t even want to bathe my baby in Jackson’s water,” she said.

It would cost an estimated $1 billion to repair Jackson’s water system, and another $1 billion to rebuild the city’s sewage system, CNN reported.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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