Weeks After Storms, Water Crisis Continues in Mississippi

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) —
Mississippi Army National Guard sergeants fill 5-gallon water drums with non-potable water, Monday, at a Jackson, Miss., water distribution site. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Frustrations are mounting in Mississippi’s largest city, more than two weeks since winter storms and freezing weather ravaged the city’s water system — knocking out water for drinking and making it impossible for many to even flush their toilets.

For more than two weeks now, residents in the city of 160,000 have been warned to boil any water that does come out of kitchen taps before using it.

“I pray it comes back on,” Jackson resident Nita Smith said. “I’m not sure how much more of this we can take.”

Smith has not had water at her house for nearly three weeks now, she said. She’s concerned about her mother who has diabetes, since not having water makes it difficult to take her medicine.

A key focus of city crews this week is filling the system’s water tanks to an optimal level, officials said in an update late Tuesday. Workers are also continuing to fix dozens of water main breaks and leaks throughout the capital city.

City officials on Wednesday planned to continue distributing water for flushing toilets at several pick-up points but they have given no specific timeline for when the crisis will be resolved.

The system has not been able to provide a sustainable flow of water throughout the city since the mid-February storms, city officials have said.

“Our system has basically crashed like a computer and now we’re trying to rebuild it,” Jackson Public Works Director Charles Williams said at a recent briefing. The city does not have exact numbers of people still without water, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba has said.

The city’s water mains are more than a century old, and needs related to its infrastructure have gone unaddressed for decades, the mayor said. “We more than likely have more than a $2 billion issue with our infrastructure,” he said.

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