Mississippi Gov. Warns 'Do Not Drink the Water' amid Ongoing Running Water Crisis in Jackson

·3 min read
Jackson, Mississippi, USA cityscape at dusk.
Jackson, Mississippi, USA cityscape at dusk.

Getty The City of Jackson, Miss.

The water system in Jackson, the capital city of Mississippi, is failing, according to state and local officials.

Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba issued a Water System Emergency Order on Monday following the city's "numerous unsuccessful attempts" to solve the problems plaguing its water system. The mayor blamed recent flooding for creating water pressure issues and "problems with treating water at the O.B. Curtis Water Plant," according to the order.

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves declared a state of emergency the following day.

In a statement, Reeves wrote that until the ongoing water crisis is fixed, "it means we do not have reliable running water at scale," so the city "cannot produce enough water to reliably flush toilets, fight fires, and meet other critical needs."

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"Replacing our largest city's infrastructure of running water with human distribution is a massively complicated logistical task," Reeves continued. "We need to provide it for up to 180,000 people— for an unknown period of time."

Highway 90 drawbridge over the Pear River at the Louisiana-Mississippi boundary
Highway 90 drawbridge over the Pear River at the Louisiana-Mississippi boundary

Getty The Pear River in Mississippi

Jackson has been under a boil water order for over 30 days after "high turbidity levels" were discovered in water samples in late July, according to Mayor Lumumba's emergency order.

The city's water problem was exacerbated by the recent flooding of the Pearl River, which resulted in a temporary decrease in water production across the city, according to Mississippi Today and CNN.

Jackson has had several issues with its water system in the past, including in 2021 when a winter storm led to thousands of people to lose water, the outlets reported. Some lost access to water from one to three weeks.

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When fully operational, the O.B. Curtis Water Plant provides about 50 million gallons of water to the city on a daily basis, according to Mississippi Today.

"The O.B. Curtis plant is not operating anywhere near full capacity," Reeves said during a press conference on Monday, per the outlet.

Fewell, Jackson's second main treatment plant, is now providing up to 30 million gallons of water to the city's 180,000 residents, an increase from its usual 20 million.

The O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant in Jackson, Mississippi on March 23, 2022. The city shut down the plant temporary in November 2021 due to a bad batch of chemicals as well as faulty equipment.
The O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant in Jackson, Mississippi on March 23, 2022. The city shut down the plant temporary in November 2021 due to a bad batch of chemicals as well as faulty equipment.

FRANCOIS PICARD/AFP /AFP via Getty The O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant in Jackson, Mississippi

Authorities have warned that the city's water is not safe to consume or to be used for tasks like brushing teeth, per CNN. As a result, residents are being told to conserve what they can while continuing to boil their water as directed.

"Please stay safe. Do not drink the water," Reeves said Monday, urging residents to "be smart" amid the crisis. "In too many cases, it is raw water from the reservoir being pushed through the pipes."

Additionally, Jackson Public Schools has now transitioned to virtual learning indefinitely due to the ongoing crisis. School officials will "closely monitor the water conditions" daily to determine when in-person learning can safely resume, according to Monday's announcement.

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Mayor Lumumba has requested assistance from the Mississippi Emergency Management agency (MEMA) and the state's Department of Health, which the order says "is necessary" for a proper response.

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An incident command center will open on Tuesday, and will begin distributing water to residents, Mississippi Today and CNN reported.

Among the first goals, Reeves said, is to get water quantity levels up enough for residents to begin flushing toilets and showering again, per Mississippi Today.

"We will come up with a solution that will be great for the city of Jackson," Stephen McCraney, Mississippi Emergency Management Agency executive director, said at Monday's press conference, according to the outlet.