Some improvement seen as Jackson water issues continue | Region
JACKSON, Mississippi (AP) — Mississippi officials set up emergency distribution centers for the distribution of water and hand sanitizer Thursday in the capital city of Jackson, as efforts to restore a flooded area , long-disturbed water system continued.
Jackson residents were already under a boil water order before Pearl River flooding compounded longstanding problems at one of the city’s two water treatment plants. .
Officials said they made overnight progress filling reservoirs, treating water and increasing pressure at the OB Curtis water plant, the facility behind the latest water problems. Residents closer to the facility had pressure approaching normal levels, the city said in a news release, but added that many in the city still had little to no water pressure.
“It’s pretty annoying,” Jackson resident Shirley Harrington said Thursday. “It’s like playing Russian roulette. You don’t know if you’re going to wake up with water, you don’t know if you have water, you don’t know what state you’re in. water. There are so many statements: “Don’t drink”, “Don’t drink”, “You can drink, but don’t drink”, so you say to yourself: “What am I really doing ?”
At a midday press conference with Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba and other officials, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves announced the opening of seven drinking water, non-potable water and of hand sanitizer. He said 600 members of the National Guard were helping with the response. The seven new “megasites” follow smaller-scale distribution efforts at fire stations, churches, nonprofits and businesses across the city.
“To everyone in town: I know you are facing a deeply unfair situation,” Reeves said. “It’s frustrating, it’s wrong and it needs to be fixed.”
Governor and Mississippi Emergency Management Agency Director Stephen McCraney pledged the state would seek long-term solutions to the city’s water problems.
The water crisis is affecting the city’s 150,000 residents – many of whom have been unable to shower or flush toilets – plus an estimated 30,000 people who come to the city to work in businesses with no pressure to water,” Reeves said.
Reeves said these companies were suffering major economic damage from the crisis. McCraney said the state will review the availability of federal loans from the Small Business Administration to help them.
City communications director Melissa Payne said all water system customers — 46,000 residential and 6,000 commercial accounts — were affected by low water pressure at some point during the crisis. The latest available figures from the city showed 80% of water system customers had little to no water Wednesday morning. It was unclear how many had been substantially restored on Thursday.
Schools in Jackson held online classes Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and some restaurants closed. Portable toilets are parked outside the Capitol. Jackson State University has installed temporary restrooms for students.
Reeves declared a state of emergency on Monday night after excessive rain and flooding from the Pearl River exacerbated problems at the sewage treatment plant. On Tuesday, President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for the state. Biden called Lumumba on Wednesday to discuss response efforts, including support from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers.
“We are doing everything we can to make sure we help the people of Mississippi,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday. “We are in close contact.”
Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell plans to visit the state on Friday, Jean-Pierre said.
On Thursday morning, the city reported “significant progress” in efforts to restore the treatment plant, with output of 78 pounds per square inch, approaching a target of 87 PSI.
“There are still challenges as the intake water source changes the chemistry again. Operator schedules have been adjusted to increase coordination between shifts,” the city statement read.
In addition to on-site repairs, the city is working to secure more chemicals needed for treatment.
Michael Goldberg is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mikergoldberg.
Associated Press video reporter Stephen Smith in Jackson and writer Kevin McGill in New Orleans contributed to this report.
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.