Loading...

Mississippi Gov. Declares State of Emergency Over Jackson Water Crisis

August 30, 2022 by Dan McCue
A Jackson, Miss., Fire Department firefighter puts cases of bottled water in a resident's SUV, Aug. 18, 2022, as part of the city's response to longstanding water system problems. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi’s capital, the largest city in the state, does not have enough water pressure left to meet the critical needs of its 180,000 residents after the city’s long-failing, main water treatment facility finally gave up the ghost on Monday.

In response, Gov. Tate Reeves called on the National Guard to distribute water to crisis-stricken citizens who had already been under a boil water notice since late July due to an unspecified water-quality issue.

In the meantime, emergency crews working to get the water treatment plant back online are struggling with extreme flooding of the Pearl River, which runs to the northeast of the city. 

The river crested Monday at 35.4 feet, just shy of the major flood stage, complicating repairs and the amount of water that can flow through the affected treatment processes.

What it all means, Reeves said, is “we do not have reliable running water at scale.”

“It means the city cannot produce enough water to fight fires, to reliably flush toilets and to meet other critical needs,” he said.

He added that the entire city would be without “reliable running water at scale” for the foreseeable future.

Because of Monday’s failure, officials announced all Jackson public schools would shift to virtual learning Tuesday.

The O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant in Jackson has been struggling for years. 

In November, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan included Jackson on what he called his “journey for justice” tour to see firsthand how environmental concerns are affecting marginalized communities.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan speaks to reporters at a water treatment plant near Jackson, Miss., last year, addressing water problems that have plagued the capital city. (Rogelio V. Solis/AP)

While he was there, the capital was placed under a citywide boil water notice due to what officials said was a “bad batch of chemicals” used to clean the water.

That incident came on the heels of a nine-week water outage and, earlier in the year, a monthlong closure after a winter storm froze exposed equipment at the plant.

Before Regan left, city officials told him it would likely cost $1 billion to fix everything that ailed the treatment plant at that time — money Jackson simply didn’t have.

In July, the main pumps at the treatment plant began to fail and they were replaced by smaller backup pumps.

At the same time, the city facility became woefully understaffed, leaving, in Reeves’ words, “far too few heroic frontline workers … to hold the system together.”

Taken together, avoiding a major catastrophe like the one unfolding now, “was a near impossibility,” he said.

Reeves, a Republican, has placed some of the blame for the emergency squarely on the shoulders of Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, a Democrat.

According to the governor, Lumumba and other city officials failed to provide the state with any kind of timeline for when the plant would be in any kind of reliable operating condition.

In a lengthy statement posted to Twitter, Reeves said, “This is a very different situation from a boil water notice — which is also a serious situation which the residents of Jackson have become tragically numb to.”

Reeves said the state has “organized water for fire safety” and is also “organizing the resources to provide water for sanitation and life safety,” but he added, “replacing our largest city’s infrastructure of running water with human distribution is a massively complicated logistical task. … It will not be easy.”

“We have also offered the mayor what we believe to be incredibly generous conditions for improving the water situation in Jackson. There is no silver bullet fix, but it is a better shot at success,” the governor continued.

“The state has created an incident command structure and is surging our resources to the city’s water treatment facility and beginning emergency maintenance, repairs and improvements. We will do everything in our power to restore water pressure and get water flowing back to the people of Jackson,” he said.

“We will cash flow the operation and the city will be responsible for half of the cost of the emergency improvements that we make. I want to make something very clear to those operators we have been and will be reaching out to: You will be paid for your work. The state is owning that guarantee. The mayor has accepted those terms in principle,” Reeves said.

Until the situation is resolved, Reeves urged the city’s resident’s to “please, stay safe. Do not drink the water.” 

“In too many cases, it is raw water from the reservoir being pushed through the pipes. Be smart. Protect yourself. Protect your family,” he said.

In an email to The Well News, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said, “I’ve been advised that the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency will request an emergency declaration from the Federal Emergency Management Agency imminently.

“I’ve been in contact with both FEMA and the White House about this request and strongly recommend the president approve the declaration as soon as possible,” Thompson continued. “I hope the federal government will be able to provide resources adequate and comprehensive enough to address the health and safety crisis facing the city of Jackson and surrounding communities.

“This situation requires immediate attention and cooperation from federal, state and local governments. My office will work as requested to facilitate additional resources from the federal government as well as disaster relief and humanitarian organizations,” he said.

Dan can be reached at dan@thewellnews.com and @DanMcCue

In The News

Health

Voting

In The States

December 7, 2022
by Tom Ramstack
Firefighters Seek Contempt Citation Against DC for Ban on Beards

WASHINGTON — Washington, D.C., firefighters are asking a federal judge for a contempt citation against the city for its ban... Read More

WASHINGTON — Washington, D.C., firefighters are asking a federal judge for a contempt citation against the city for its ban on beards. Firefighters argue the ban violates the freedom of religion of their Muslim and Jewish members. The District of Columbia says the ban helps to... Read More

December 7, 2022
by Dan McCue
Southern States Rank Among Nation’s Most Stressed in New Survey

PHUKET, Thailand — Alabama, Louisiana and South Carolina ranked among the nation’s most stressed states, according to a new study... Read More

PHUKET, Thailand — Alabama, Louisiana and South Carolina ranked among the nation’s most stressed states, according to a new study conducted by addiction specialists at Diamond Rehab Thailand, a luxury inpatient rehab center in Southeast Asia. For the purpose of the study, the addiction specialists analyzed... Read More

December 6, 2022
by Dan McCue
Texas’ Top Election Official Resigns, Abbott Names Replacement

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas’ top election official, Secretary of State John Scott, resigned from that post on Monday, saying he... Read More

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas’ top election official, Secretary of State John Scott, resigned from that post on Monday, saying he will relinquish the office at the end of the year. As a result, on Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott announced he will appoint Republican State Sen. Jane... Read More

Biden to Visit Arizona Computer Chip Site, Highlight Jobs

President Joe Biden on Tuesday plans to visit the building site for a new computer chip plant in Arizona, using... Read More

President Joe Biden on Tuesday plans to visit the building site for a new computer chip plant in Arizona, using it as a chance to emphasize how his policies are fostering job growth in what could be a challenge to the incoming Republican House majority. Biden... Read More

DeSantis 2024 Prospects Prompt Fla. Lawmakers to Review Law

MIAMI (AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis may need some help from the state Legislature if he proceeds with a highly anticipated... Read More

MIAMI (AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis may need some help from the state Legislature if he proceeds with a highly anticipated bid for the Republican presidential nomination. A “resign to run” law requires state officeholders to commit to leave their positions if they run for federal office.... Read More

Arizona County Certifies Election After Judge's Order

PHOENIX (AP) — A rural Arizona county certified its midterm election results on Thursday, following the orders of a judge who ruled... Read More

PHOENIX (AP) — A rural Arizona county certified its midterm election results on Thursday, following the orders of a judge who ruled that Republican supervisors broke the law when they refused to sign off on the vote count by this week's deadline. Two Republicans on Cochise County's three-member... Read More

News From The Well