Jackson Water Crisis Follows Years Of Failure To Fix Deteriorating System

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Years of neglect of the city's deteriorating water system have led to the current crisis in Jackson that has left over 150,000 people without access to safe drinking water, per NPR.

Residents of the predominantly Black city have faced years of service disruptions and recurring boil-water advisories due to contaminants like E. Coli and lead, all stemming from Jackson's outdated infrastructure that has yet to be upgraded.

On Tuesday (August 30), Gov. Tate Reeves declared a state of emergency following heavy rains swelling the Pearl River and damaging the city's main water-treatment facility.

"Until it is fixed, it means we do not have reliable running water at scale," Reeves said in a statement Tuesday. "It means the city cannot produce enough water to fight fires, to reliably flush toilets, and to meet other critical needs."

Officials are now scrambling to provide bottled water to thousands of people as it remains unknown exactly when service will be restored.

Yet, activists and community members have urged officials to address Jackson's aging water system for years.

"It was a near certainty that Jackson would begin to fail to produce running water sometime in the next several weeks or months if something didn't materially improve," Reeves said earlier this week.

The city was already facing a state-issued boil water notice in the month prior to the flooding.

A similar water crisis also occurred in 2021 when winter storms covered the state in ice — Pipes and water mains burst throughout Jackson, leaving residents without water for as long as three weeks.

Going back to 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency warned that Jackson's water system posed "an imminent and substantial endangerment" to its residents and could contain dangerous contaminants.

According to NPR, the challenges in Jackson stem from decades of underinvestment in a water system made up of 1,500 miles of water mains, some of which are more than 100 years old.

Updating the city's infrastructure could cost up to $2 billion dollars, Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba estimates.

A federal infrastructure bill signed by President Joe Biden last year directed $75 million to Mississippi for water and sewage needs, but the funds were for the entire state, not just Jackson.

At the same time, the city has struggled to receive state infrastructure funding.

Last year, at least two bills aiming to raise money for repairs to the water system died in the legislature.

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