Jacksonians say they are fed up with the continuing water crisis

For more than 20 years, CJ Rhodes has called Jackson, Miss., To his home, and says his fellow citizens are exhausted after dealing with unsafe drinking water for too long.

Rhodes, the pastor of Mount Helm Baptist Church, Jackson’s oldest historically African-American congregation, says the city lacks the resources each year to provide clean water to its residents and many are fed up. The population of the Mississippi capital is 83 percent black, and a quarter of its residents live below the poverty line, more than double the national rate.

Jackson’s water and sewage problems have been a plague for nearly three decades. But the last three years or so have rapidly accelerated the deterioration of various aspects of the water system, “Rhodes told Yahoo News.” We knew back in the 1990s: you just don’t drink water. You get a filter. You buy water in bottle”.

For more than a month, some 150,000 residents of Mississippi’s largest city were left without clean water, attracting the attention of the national media.

Members of Progressive Morningstar Baptist Church move crates of water after Sunday morning service in Jackson on September 4. (Seth Herald / AFP via Getty Images)

The most recent problems began in July, when the main pumps of the Curtis water treatment plant were damaged. Authorities blamed the flooding of the Pearl River, combined with the city’s aging water system.

The main pumps were shut down on August 9, leaving Jackson residents with no running water. The facility began pumping regular pressurized water to residents on September 5, but is still not safe to drink as it is cloudy, indicating the possible presence of bacteria, viruses and parasites.

After the water pressure is restored, Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba tweeted: “We are grateful for this short-term progress; however, we must remain vigilant and united to deliver long-term solutions that will rectify the decades of damage to our system. ”

At the moment, the city is under a water boil warning, which means that residents have to boil tap water for one minute before using it. This is a warning city dwellers know too well, after being subjected to a water boil warning for more than a month. Even if there is water to flush the toilet, residents are advised to keep their mouths shut while showering as the water is still dangerous.

While the Jacksonians are dealing with the crisis, companies such as hotels and restaurants have struggled to stay afloat. Some companies were forced to close temporarily during the peak of the crisis. Many have to pay out of their own pocket to provide bottled water, canned and ice-cold sodas in bags as a substitute for running water. On Monday, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves, a Republican, asked the federal government to help businesses facing economic hardship caused by the water crisis.

Crates of bottled water are distributed at a Mississippi Rapid Response Coalition distribution site on August 31.

Crates of bottled water are being distributed at a Mississippi Rapid Response Coalition distribution site on August 31. (Brad Vest / Getty Images)

In a letter to the director of small business administration in the United States, Kem R. Fleming, Reeves requested an administrative declaration for small businesses, which can provide economic damage loans to businesses. “Jackson’s businesses have been hit hard by the ongoing water crisis,” the governor said. “They have demonstrated their resilience and commitment to this city over the years and my administration will continue to do everything possible to support them during this difficult time.”

At this point, the residents are in pain, and many Jacksonians say their government has let them down. “Many citizens I spoke to are angry with the city and state leadership. They feel like they haven’t done enough, ”Rhodes said. “And people who can leave are leaving, and others who cannot leave, frankly, feel trapped.”

A 2021 study by the Brookings Institution found that the underlying problem is the city’s lack of funding. “In addition to a declining population, Jackson’s high percentage of low-income residents – in one of the poorest states in the country – limits stable and predictable revenues for public services, including clean water and wastewater. “states the study.

Currently, the city, the state, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Environmental Protection Agency are attempting to find solutions and “develop short and long-term plans to stabilize the water system,” Michael Reganthe EPA administrator said in a tweet on Sept. 7.

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba speaks at a press conference on March 8, 2021.

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba speaks at a press conference on March 8, 2021. (Michael M. Santiago / Getty Images)

But elected officials haven’t always seen eye to eye. “You can see the gap. They are trying to work for the best now, “Mac Epps, program director of Mississippi Move, a nonprofit organization involved in response efforts, told Yahoo News.

The city needs about $ 2 billion to tackle its infrastructure problem, but the total could be more, according to the mayor.

“I talked about Jackson having a $ 2 billion global problem. I didn’t say our water system costs $ 2 billion and honestly, that estimate is probably a more conservative estimate,” Lumumba explained in a recent interview. with the Jackson Free Press.

While the city is craving funds to solve the water crisis, it was recently banned from President Biden’s $ 47.1 billion grant request to Congress. In a September 8 statement, Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., Called on the president to amend the request and include Jackson in the funding proposal.

Jackson’s water crisis is nothing short of a full-blown emergency, and it is disappointing and worrying that the needs of the city’s water and sewage infrastructure did not fit into the $ 47.1 billion emergency request from the city. administration. Support for Ukraine, COVID-19, monkeypox or natural disasters in other states should not override Jackson residents’ needs for access to clean water, “Hyde-Smith said.

The Pearl River during a water shortage in Jackson on September 1.

The Pearl River during a water shortage in Jackson on September 1 (Houston Cofield / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Although the water is currently active again, the residents of the city are aware that the old water system could fail again at any time. “Frankly, until the pipes are replaced and the treatment plants are overhauled, essentially this will continue to be a crisis that a small ice storm or heavy rain or super hot day or super cold day could. bring us back to the same situation again, ”Rhodes said.

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