(NewsNation) — Jackson, Mississippi, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said even after the city’s boil-water notice is lifted, his city will still be in a state of emergency because of the many issues its water treatment facilities still have.
Most people in Mississippi’s capital have not had any running water since before the city’s water system failed. While flooding along the Pearl River exacerbated the issue, Jackson’s water treatment plant has been plagued by problems for decades.
“The equipment we have is still fragile. The water treatment facility is still in a constant state of disrepair, and a constant state of many, many challenges,” Lumumba said.
This means, the mayor said, that it’s “not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when the systems will fail again, without significant funding, without significant resources to repair them for good.”
Jackson’s water treatment facility has been divested in, and there’s plenty of blame to go around on how exactly this happened, Lumumba added. Now, though, he said his focus is on relief, and also long-term sustainability, equity and reliability in the water system.
“My priority is to make sure that I work hard with the coalition that is there,” Lumumba said. “I can’t be exchanging jabs with the team that I’ve called in to support us.”
Lumumba said he has previously outlined how the state has failed in its allocation of money to cities such as Jackson, and the failures of the physical plant itself are extensive in many areas.
“We have our water screens that fail, we have our water pumps that fail,” he said. “It’s clear wells are clogged and unable to work. We have membranes that fail. We have a UV light that is on the fritz and is obsolete and is no longer in production, and so we have to maintain as many parts as we can.”
Severe weather, especially February storms, haven’t helped, Lumumba said.
“The challenges are vast. The record is clear. We have been speaking about this for many, many years now,” he said. “And so when the cameras disappear, when this is no longer the front page news, we need to make certain that the resolve of everyone who has their hands on this responsibility maintains, and they actually help us out to the point that we can see it to reliability, sustainability and what our residents are worthy of.”
There have been some signs of improvement — Lumumba said water is returning to some residents’ homes — “But we won’t be satisfied until every resident has water in their homes, and we’re able to lift the boil-water notice,” he added.