Mississippi’s capital city lacks enough water pressure to fight fires, flush toilets and meet other critical needs because its main water treatment facility began failing Monday, the governor said — a problem officials blame on longstanding water system problems and this week’s river flooding.
The state is declaring an emergency for Jackson as it scrambles to begin distributing drinking and non-drinking water to up to 180,000 city residents, Gov. Tate Reeves said Monday evening. The National Guard is being called in to help distribute the water as crews work to get the water treatment plant back online, state officials said.
Explanations for the failing system are complicated: Damage this summer to pumps at the main water treatment facility made failure almost inevitable, the governor says; and flooding of the Pearl River after heavy rains last week affected treatment processes and therefore the amount of running water the system can provide, Jackson’s mayor said.
“It means 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,” Reeves said.
The trouble comes as the city already was under a boil water notice since late July for what the state says was a water-quality issue.
Because of Monday’s failure, officials announced all Jackson public schools will shift to virtual learning Tuesday.
“Please stay safe. Do not drink the water. In too many cases, it is raw water from the reservoir being pushed through the pipes,” Reeves told Jackson residents Monday. “Be smart, protect yourself, protect your family.”
Residents are being told to conserve the water resources they do have and boil any water they use for three minutes.
The state is “surging our resources to the city’s water treatment facility and beginning emergency maintenance, repairs and improvements,” Reeves said, adding, “We will do everything in our power to restore water pressure and get water flowing back to the people of Jackson.”
Besides preparing to distribute water to residents, the state is setting up a tanker system to provide water for fire trucks as Jackson loses the ability to take water from fire hydrants, officials said.
Water for those in the state’s most populous city would have to be provided “for an unknown period of time,” Reeves said. The water shortage is expected to last “the next couple of days,” the office of Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said.