Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, says he hopes to restore water service this week

Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba told CNN on Wednesday that officials are “optimistic that we can see water restored to our residents within this week” of the city of about 150,000 residents.

“In order to achieve this, a huge mountain needs to be climbed,” he said. Crews “have been working hard to get back to pressure and refuel tanks across the city,” Lumumba said.

But the water crisis is still upending nearly every aspect of city life, with public schools turning to virtual learning on Tuesday.

Everyone knows Jackson's water crisis is coming

Mother-of-three Cassandra Welchlin told CNN her children were out of school and had to buy water for cooking, brushing their teeth and other basic necessities.

Welch Lynn, executive director of the Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable, said brown water kept coming out of her tap.

“We’re still not going to use that water. We’re not going to boil it to do anything because there’s grit in the water,” she said. “This is a very bad public safety issue.”

The state says help is on the way: Governor. Tate Reeves, who declared an emergency and activated the National Guard to help distribute bottled water, said he had dispatched resources to perform emergency repairs and maintenance on the plant. Some services have been improved and a truckload of water is about to be distributed to the public, officials said.

President Joe Biden signed a major disaster declaration on Tuesday, triggering aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and he discussed emergency work with Lumumba on Wednesday, the White House said.

Residents and businesses still face many challenges.

Residents lined up for more than a mile at a water distribution event at Hawkins Field Airport on Tuesday – with some being turned away when the venue ran out of 700 tanks of water in just two hours.

Some stores are in short supply. Jackson resident Geraldine Watts got the last of the water bottle crates at a grocery store on Monday, she told CNN. She and her family have been using bottled or boiled tap water for everything, including cooking and washing dishes.

'Water is a human right': City of Jackson still desperately needs infrastructure to help tackle water crisis

“I keep saying we’re going to be the next Michigan,” Watts said. “It looks like that’s exactly what we’re going for.”

Watts was referring to the city of Flint, Michigan, which suffered a water crisis around 2015, when contaminated drinking water containing lead and other toxins was detected in homes and residents reported mysterious illnesses in children.
The University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson said air conditioning at one facility was not functioning properly due to low water pressure, and portable restrooms were being used at other facilities.

At Jackson State, “all campus locations have low to no water pressure” and water is being delivered to students, officials said. The university’s head football coach, Deion Sanders, said its football program was in “crisis mode”.

Advocates have previously pointed to systemic and environmental racism as one of the reasons for Jackson’s persistent water problems and a lack of resources to address them. About 82.5 percent of Jackson’s population is black or African-American, according to census data, and the state’s legislature is predominantly white.

Earlier this week, Lumumba said the water system had been “delayed for maintenance for 3 years or more” and the city needed funding to catch up.

There was flooding in Jackson, Mississippi, on Tuesday.

what happened and what officials said was doing

While Jackson has had many water problems over the years, serious problems have followed at least since late July, when the state responded to a high level of turbidity, or turbidity, at the city’s OB Curtis water treatment plant. Jackson issued a boiling water notice. The city said there is a higher chance that water brought by cloudy conditions may contain disease-causing organisms.
Around the same time, the main pump at the city’s main treatment plant, OB Curtis, was severely damaged, forcing the facility to run with smaller backup pumps, Reeves said this week. The city announced on Aug. 9 that the pump in question had been taken offline.

The governor said he was told Friday that “without material improvement, Jackson will almost certainly be unable to produce tap water at some point in the coming weeks or months.”

Then, flooding: Heavy rains last week that flooded the Pearl River and flooded some streets in Jackson peaked Monday.
The water crisis in Jackson, Mississippi has gotten so bad, the city is temporarily running out of bottled water for residents

Lumumba said Monday that due to the flooding, OB Curtis was getting extra water from the reservoir, which changed the way the factory processed the water, causing the factory to produce even lower levels than before, severely reducing water pressure across the city.

State officials said late Tuesday that some improvements had been made at the plant, but more was needed.

On Tuesday, the plant pumped about 30 million gallons of water a day. It is rated to pump about 50 million gallons a day, Jim Craig, director of health protection for the state health department, told reporters Tuesday.

The governor said Tuesday that officials hope to “add a leased pump that will allow us to put at least 4 million gallons into the system,” perhaps installed by Wednesday.

“It’s progress and it’s going to help,” Reeves said.

Reeves has Say The state will share the cost of emergency repairs with the city.
As a more comprehensive solution, Lumumba has said $2 billion is needed to fully repair and replace outdated water and sewer systems, and the city is nowhere near that kind of money.

“I’ve said many times that it’s not a question of if our system will fail, it’s a question of when our system will fail,” the mayor said Tuesday, adding that the city has been “going alone” for the better part of two years. ‘, when it comes to the water crisis.

Lumumba told CNN that the city is working on more water distribution activities.

'Water is a human right': City of Jackson still desperately needs infrastructure to help tackle water crisis

Starting Thursday, seven large distribution stations and 36 truckloads of water will be available to the public each day, Col. Lt. Mississippi Emergency Management Director Stephen McClane said Tuesday.

McLarney added that companies like Anheuser-Busch, Walmart and Save A Lot, as well as volunteer groups, are also donating water to the city.

Jackson City Councilman Aaron Banks told CNN that the city also provides flushing water.

“The first thing we realized was that people needed to be able to flush, because that became an issue in terms of making sure people had the quality of life they needed,” he said.

“At the end of the day, we need to fix and give Flint, Michigan the same attention we need to give Jackson,” Banks said.

At Jackson State University, some students are raising money to buy water for Jackson residents in need and have Created a hotline These residents can call for help.

Maise Brown, 20, a junior at Jackson State University, organized the group of about 20 students called the Mississippi Student Water Crisis Advocacy Team. The group launched a social media campaign on Tuesday to raise money and promote the hotline.

As of Wednesday morning, the group had raised about $2,000 and had received about 10 calls for help.

“We had disabled residents calling us … for help,” Brown said. “We also have people who live outside the city calling us and asking us to help their elderly parents.”

Brown said the group plans to knock on the doors of families, hoping to reach people who might not see its social media activity.

Signs restricting water purchases at Kroger in Jackson, Mississippi, Tuesday.

Long-standing problems plaguing water systems

Jackson’s water system has faced serious problems for years.
In early 2020, Jackson’s water system failed an EPA inspection that found the drinking water had the potential to be a host for harmful bacteria or parasites.
In February 2021, a severe winter storm hit, causing pipes to freeze and burst, leaving many residents without water for a month.

“We haven’t had a month in some parts of South Jackson without going from no traffic to low traffic since then, so it’s very frustrating,” Councilman Banks told CNN.

In July 2021, the EPA and New York City signed an agreement to address “long-term challenges and make necessary improvements to drinking water systems.” EPA also recently announced $74.9 million in federal water and sewer infrastructure funding for Mississippi.

CNN’s Amir Vera, Melissa Alonso, Amanda Musa, Pamela Brown, Carroll Alvarado, Amy Simonson and Betsy Klein contributed to this report.

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