This Mississippi City to Be With Little Shortage of Drinking Water in Future
Jackson is Mississippi’s biggest city, with more than 160,000 people living there. On Monday, state officials said that the city’s drinking water system is failing. Thousands of people in Jackson already don’t have any or very little water flow, and officials aren’t sure when they’ll be able to get good, reliable service again.
There have been problems with the city’s water system for years. During a winter storm in 2021, tens of thousands of people lost their water for one to three weeks. Gov. Tate Reeves told reporters Monday night that the city’s biggest water treatment plants might not be working at all.
Reeves said, “The O.B. Curtis plant is not even close to being at full capacity.” “We might find out tomorrow that it’s not working at all.” When we get in there tomorrow, we’ll be able to see that better.
Reeves said he would declare an emergency for the water system in the capital city and set up a “incident command center” to get water to people in the city starting Tuesday morning. “Until it is fixed, we won’t have reliable running water on a large scale,” Reeves said. “That means the city can’t make enough water to put out fires, flush toilets, and meet other important needs.”
Monday at 7 p.m., Reeves said the system was breaking. At that time, Jackson leaders, including Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, had not told the public about the problem. In a statement, Lumumba did say that there was a “water system emergency” on Monday around 6 p.m., and that the “water shortage is likely to last the next couple of days.”
Reeves did not call Lumumba to the press conference on Monday night. Reeves said he hadn’t talked to the mayor directly, but the mayor had agreed to work with state officials to solve the issue, he said. On Tuesday, people from the Mississippi State Department of Health will work with city officials to try to get the plant back up and running.
“The operators (of the O.B. Curtis facility) have been heroic, just not enough of them,” Reeves said, adding that the workers from the city will be very important in getting the plant back up and running. Dr. Daniel Edney, the state health officer, told people in Jackson to “honor their water resources” and boil their water for three minutes before drinking, brushing their teeth, or cooking with it.
In his statement, Reeves said that he learned on Friday that O.B. Curtis might fail totally. The city was using backup pumps because the main pumps were “seriously damaged” around the time the boil water warning started on July 29. This was told to him by state health officials.
“On Friday, they told us there was no way to know for sure when, but it was almost certain that Jackson would stop producing running water sometime in the next few weeks or months if things didn’t get significantly better,” Reeves said. “We started getting ready for the possibility that Jackson would not have running water for a long time.”
He said that his team started making a plan for getting water to people over the weekend. “We did all of this in the hopes that we would have more time before their system broke down,” Reeves said. “That failure seems to have started today, which is a shame.”
On Tuesday, a command center for the event will be set up, and state workers will go into the O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant to try to get it back up and running. Reeves said that the plant has been running at half of its full power for a few days now. The city has been under a boil water notice from the state health department for more than a month. On Monday, however, much of Jackson lost water flow because of problems at the plant.
As Reeves put it, the first goal is to get enough water back so that people can flush the toilets and take showers. The second goal is to get enough quality water back so that the boil water warning is no longer needed.
As a short-term solution, Reeves said the state will pay for urgent repairs, maintenance, and changes with cash flow. This will include hiring operators to help out at the treatment plant. The mayor agreed to a plan in which the city would pay half of the cost of the operation, he said.
The head of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, Stephen McCraney, said, “We will find a solution that works for the city of Jackson.” The governor did not talk about long-term plans, such as possible legislation that would set aside state funds to fix the water system in the long run.
McCraney also said that the Hinds County Emergency Management Agency had gotten water for possible use in fighting fires and that the state would be bringing in water for drinking and other bathroom needs.