Sept. 2, 2022 – Flooding has overwhelmed the aging water system in Jackson, MS, knocking out or dirtying the drinking water for 150,000 residents of the capital city, causing public schools to switch to remote learning and forcing some businesses to scramble.
"Do not drink the water," Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves told Jackson residents.
The State Department of Health issued guidelines for people using the water in Jackson. Besides not drinking the tap water, they should not use ice made from it or use tap water in drinks, and they should only cook with boiled tap water. They should brush their teeth only with bottled water.
“Wash your hands and bathe as usual. Bathing is safe as long as no water is swallowed,” the state said. “Using your home dishwasher is not recommended.”
The state government and the National Guard set up sites to pass out water throughout Hinds County, where Jackson is located, but some sites ran out of water while people waited, CNN reported.
Jackson has had water problems for years. In February 2021, the system failed when extremely cold weather caused pipes to freeze. The state imposed a boil water notice in late July when cloudiness was noticed in the city’s water, CNN said.
The latest crisis occurred when Pearl River flooding knocked out the city’s main water treatment plant this week. Water pressure dropped so low that many customers could not flush their toilets.
Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba declared a water system emergency on Aug. 29, which was followed by emergency orders from the state and the federal government.
Repairs are underway at the water plant, the city said in a news release on Thursday.
“Areas closer to the plant are experiencing almost normal pressure,” the release said. “Areas further from the plant and at higher elevations are still experiencing low to no pressure. This pressure will improve as the tank levels increase.”
But it’s not clear when the boil water advisory will be lifted, or when long-term fixes can be made to the city-owned water system.
State Rep. Ronnie Crudup Jr. said the weather worsened the already serious water system problem.
"It's been building up for years, but we have had an unprecedented amount of rain in the last 2 to 4 weeks, and it just kind of created this havoc, what we are dealing with right now," he told CNN.