Flooding in Jackson, Mississippi, leaves residents without safe tap water

State of emergency declared by governor as National Guard distributes water to thousands

A Jackson Fire Department firefighter puts cases of bottled water into a resident's car as part of the city's response to water system problems. AP
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Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves on Tuesday declared a state of emergency in response to the loss of access to safe and clean running water in the state capital of Jackson after unprecedented flooding.

Members of the state's National Guard have been sent to distribute water to thousands of Jackson-area residents, as it is unknown when repairs of damaged water pumps may be completed.

“Replacing our largest city's infrastructure of running water with human distribution is a massively complicated logistical task,” Mr Reeves said in a statement.

“We need to provide it for up to 180,000 people — for an unknown period of time.”

Historic flooding wreaked havoc on water treatment systems and three pumps failed, the Mississippi State Department of Health said, making tap water unsafe to drink or use. Reports say that some taps are dry.

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

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said President Joe Biden is aware of the situation that the US government is ready to assist.

Mr Reeves confirmed in a tweet on Tuesday that Mississippi is “sending a request for a federally declared disaster to support state and city emergencies”.

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba on Monday issued a water system emergency and estimated that the “water shortage” would last through “the next couple of days”.

“Contrary to some reports, the city is not cutting off water to residents,” he said.

City businesses have closed and schools have shifted to virtual learning.

Before the flooding affected the water system, the black-majority city had already been dealing with faulty infrastructure.

“We've been actually lifting up our persistent water challenges for the better part of two years,” Mr Lumbumba told CNN.

Jackson has had a boil-water order since July. Mr Lumumba said earlier in August that the boil notice would be required for at least another year, due to the specific treatment the city was using to clean the water.

In early 2021, tens of thousands of residents lost access to water for weeks because of a winter storm.

Updated: August 30, 2022, 7:53 PM