On Monday, state officials in Jackson, Mississippi announced that the city’s water system was failing, leaving thousands of residents without adequate water supply. Jackson has a population of over 149,000 and nearly 85.5 percent of residents are Black, according to The Census.
O.B. Curtis is the largest water treatment plant in the city. During a press conference Monday night, Gov. Tate Reeves cautioned that the plant would be temporarily shut down until officials could figure out the cause of the malfunction.
“The O.B. Curtis plant is not operating anywhere near full capacity,” Reeves told reporters, according to The Mississippi Today. “We may find out tomorrow it’s not operating at all. We’ll have better visibility on that when we get in there tomorrow.” Experts from the Mississippi State Department will work closely with city operators to fix the system, but until then, State Health Officer Dr. Daniel Edney urged Jackson residents to conserve their water resources and “to boil their water for three minutes before using it to drink, brush teeth, or cook.”
Here’s what we know about the Mississippi water crisis so far.
Jackson’s water system issue has been bubbling for some time
Jackson’s water system issue has been brewing for months. The main water pumps at O.B. Curtis were “damaged severely” around the same time officials notified residents to boil their water on July 29, Reeves explained. The governor did not reveal the source of the damage. The city was relying on small backup pumps until the system completely went offline.
“We were told on Friday that there was no way to predict exactly when, but that 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,” Reeves said. “We began preparing for a scenario where Jackson would be without running water for an extended period.”
Jackson’s Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said the city’s water plant had failed numerous times since 2020. According to the official, in early 2020, the city’s water system failed an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) inspection. In the report, the agency wrote that the drinking water “had the potential to have the presence of” harmful bacteria and parasites, “based on evidence” of turbidity and cloudiness in the water. They also expressed concerns about the “condition of the distribution system.”
“I have said on multiple occasions that it’s not a matter of ‘if’ our system would fail, but a matter of ‘when’ our system would fail,” the mayor said during a press conference on Monday. Lumumba noted that the city had been fighting to tackle the issue “alone for the better part of two years,” according to CNN.
Now more troubles lie ahead. Last week, O.B. Curtis was slammed with additional water from the surrounding reservoir due to flooding and torrential rain in the area. Officials at the facility had to reduce the amount of water they put into the system, which affected the water pressure for residents across the city Monday.
The Plan to fix the water crisis
On Twitter, Reeves said the state and city will split the cost of funding for maintenance and repairs of the water system. Contractors will be hired to fix issues with the treatment plant.
How will residents get water in the meantime?
On Tuesday, The National Guard arrived in Jackson to help distribute water to the city residents, but the process quickly turned into another hurdle for officials. Residents were forced to wait nearly two hours to receive a case of bottled water at the Hawkins Field Airport. Many were turned away when the 700 cases of water ran out.
Daryl Page, a resident of the city told CNN that he had been searching for bottled water “for a whole month” since the city issued July’s boil water notice. “Everyone is turning around because there is nothing here,” he added.
Thankfully, over the next few days, 108 semi-trucks will arrive in Jackson bearing more water for residents. The water will be available at seven major distribution sites across the city.
Here’s where to find bottled water in the city currently, per Mississippi Today.
For drinking water: 5 p.m. Monday – Friday
- Sykes Community Center, 520 Sykes Rd.
- Oak Forest Community Center, 2827 Oak Forest Dr.
- Westland Plaza Parking Lot
- IAJE Community Center, 406 W. Fortification St.
- Grove Park Community Center, 4126 Parkway Ave.
- Northtown Pharmacy, 6220 Old Canton Road
11 a.m. Saturdays
- Grove Park
- Sykes Community Center
1 p.m. Sundays
- Grove Park
- Sykes Community Center
- MS Move Across from Tougaloo College (3 – 7 p.m.)
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