Jackson, Mississippi, water shortage crisis may cost billions of dollars to fix: Mayor

·3 min read
Jackson, Mississippi, water shortage crisis may cost billions of dollars to fix: Mayor

Staffing shortages, system issues and multiple equipment failures have led to a crisis where Jackson, Mississippi, residents have lost running water for an indefinite amount of time, Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Lumumba attributed the city's water crisis to a lack of maintenance over the last few decades, adding that it will cost billions of dollars to fix the issue.

"This is a set of accumulated problems based on deferred maintenance that's not taken place over decades," Lumumba said.

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Lumumba estimated it would cost at least $1 billion to fix the water distribution system and billions more to resolve the issue altogether.

"The residents of Jackson are worthy of a dependable system, and we look forward to a coalition of the willing who will join us in the fight to improve this system that's been failing for decades," Lumumba said.

At least 180,000 people will go without reliable drinking water indefinitely in Jackson after pumps at the main water treatment plant failed this week, officials said.

A major pump at Jackson's O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant was damaged, forcing the city to use backup pumps, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said at a news conference Monday evening.

Reeves declared a State of Emergency on Tuesday and activated the state's National Guard to help officials deal with the ongoing water emergency.

PHOTO: A firefighter puts cases of bottled water in a resident's SUV at the Fire Station as part of the city's response to longstanding water system problem in Jackson, Miss., Aug. 18, 2022. (Rogelio V. Solis/AP)
PHOTO: A firefighter puts cases of bottled water in a resident's SUV at the Fire Station as part of the city's response to longstanding water system problem in Jackson, Miss., Aug. 18, 2022. (Rogelio V. Solis/AP)

"The state is marshaling tremendous resources to protect the people of our capital city," Reeves said at the conference.

Residents will not have reliable running water in the state's capital until the problem is fixed, officials said.

Reeves said the water shortage would make it more difficult for Jackson to produce enough water to fight fires, flush toilets and other essential needs.

Residents have lined up on roads and highways throughout the city to get to water distribution sites.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Mississippi has not formally asked the federal government to help bring in water but is ready to help "in any way that we can" when that request is made.

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"We stand ready and we are eager to assist further as soon as we receive an official request from the state," she said on Air Force One Tuesday.

Officials are warning the city's residents not to drink the water because it's raw water from the reservoirs being pushed through the pipes.

PHOTO: A portion of Highway 489 washed away due to flood water in Newton County near Marrow Road, Miss., in a photo released by Highway Safety Patrol, Aug. 24, 2022.  (Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol via AFP/Getty Images)
PHOTO: A portion of Highway 489 washed away due to flood water in Newton County near Marrow Road, Miss., in a photo released by Highway Safety Patrol, Aug. 24, 2022. (Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol via AFP/Getty Images)

Jackson has been under a boil water notice since July 29.

In February 2021, freezing temperatures caused water and power outages in Jackson.

Lumumba told ABC News Live Prime on Tuesday that Jackson doesn't just need a sustainable system, but also an equitable one.

"We suffer in the southern portion of our city most disproportionately," he said. "Some of the most impoverished parts of our city are feeling the brunt of this challenge more consistently and worse off than the rest of our city."

A day after the current water crisis was announced, Jackson's Public Works Director Marlin King was reassigned to another role, Lumumba said.

King now serves as the deputy director of public works, while the former director of planning and development, Jordan Hillman, will fill King's old position, according to ABC News Jackson affiliate WAPT.

ABC News' Kayna Whitworth, Darren Reynolds and Emily Shapiro contributed to this report.

Jackson, Mississippi, water shortage crisis may cost billions of dollars to fix: Mayor originally appeared on abcnews.go.com