Jackson, Mississippi, Mayor Declares State of Emergency Amid Water Crisis

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba declared a local state of emergency on Tuesday after the Mississippi capital’s water system was damaged by extreme winter weather, causing little to no pressure for many.

Because of the broken system, Jackson issued a precautionary boil water advisory on Christmas Day for all surface water connections until further notice.

The city’s O.B. Curtis and J.H. Fewell water treatment plants were working to maximize production to restore pressure to as much of the system as possible, city officials said.

Residents have been urged to report water leaks and turn off faucets to preserve pressure while city crews, contract workers, and other support teams try to isolate leaks and restore pressure.

Lumumba, a Democrat, described the situation as the “worst-case scenario.”

“Water crews are still dealing with complications at the OB Curtis Water Plant. We spent a good portion of today working to identify leaks in order to restore pressure. However, pressure remains low,” Lumumba said in a statement on Tuesday.

“We are getting more and more reports of areas in South Jackson, Byram, and West Jackson with little to no pressure,” he added. “There are also scattered neighborhoods throughout the city that remain impacted.”

Jackson Water Facility
Clouds are reflected off the City of Jackson’s O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Facility’s sedimentation basins in Ridgeland, Miss., on Sept. 2, 2022. (Rogelio V. Solis/AP Photo)

Distributing Water

Meanwhile, the city is distributing water at various locations until pressure is restored. On Tuesday, water was distributed in South Jackson, Northwest Jackson, West Jackson, and Byram.

On Monday, Lumumba said there had been a number of breaks and leaks in the city’s water system due to the drastic drop in temperature.

“We’re deeply grateful for the crews out on Christmas morning braving frigid temperatures and working to restore pressure to our residents,” he said at the time.

On Christmas Eve, the O.B. Curtis Water Plant slowed water production amid reports that some residents had little to no water pressure.

In August, the city’s water system partially collapsed after flooding exacerbated long-standing problems at one of Jackson’s two water treatment plants. Residents of the city, which has a population of about 150,000, lost water for several days and were forced to queue for water to drink, cook, bathe, and flush toilets.

water distribution jackson
Cases of bottled water are handed out at a Mississippi Rapid Response Coalition distribution site in Jackson, Miss., on Aug. 31, 2022. (Brad Vest/Getty Images)

Federal Intervention

In late November, U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate signed an agreement between Jackson, the Mississippi State Department of Health, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to allow for federal water management oversight and seat a third-party administrator.

Mississippi’s Republican Gov. Tate Reeves welcomed the DOJ’s decision in a Nov. 29 press release.

“It is excellent news for anyone who cares about the people of Jackson that the Mayor will no longer be overseeing the city’s water system,” Reeves said. “It is now out of the city’s control and will be overseen by a federal court.”

Lumumba and Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) have blamed the water crisis on racism, climate change, and Reeves. Reeves has denied the allegation that his administration withheld funds and blamed the crisis on city mismanagement.

Reeves described the period in which the state assumed responsibility for Jackson’s system as “a chaotic series of months.”

“The people on the ground who rushed to help were floored by the negligence,” Reeves said. “They did heroic work to fix so many broken things and support the frontline city workers who had been abandoned. We committed millions of dollars from taxpayers across Mississippi to solve this crisis of incompetence.”

The DOJ announced on Nov. 29 that it filed a complaint on behalf of the EPA against Jackson, alleging that the city failed to provide residents with safe drinking water in accordance with the Safe Drinking Water Act.

“It is vital that providers of drinking water comply with federal and state laws designed to ensure the safety of the water,” said U.S. Attorney Darren J. LaMarca for the Southern District of Mississippi.

Caden Pearson

Caden Pearson is a reporter based in Australia. Contact him on caden.pearson@epochtimes.com.au

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