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Why can’t residents of Jackson, Mississippi drink the tap water?

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves has declared a state of emergency for Jackson and called on the National Guard to distribute water to its 180,000 residents.

Residents told not to drink the tap water in Jackson, Mississippi

Residents of Jackson, Mississippi have unfortunately become used to water emergencies in their city, the latest declared on Monday by Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba. However, heavy rains, the flooding of the Pearl River and the failure of the city’s largest water treatment plant have made the situation particularly dangerous with not enough water to meet critical needs.

On Tuesday, Gov. Tate Reeves declared a state of emergency for the state capital and the 180,000 residents have been told not to drink water from the tap. He has also called on the Mississippi National Guard to help distribute drinking water while crews scramble to get the water facility pumping sufficient water again.

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Jackson’s water crisis has been ongoing

The problems of Jackson’s water infrastructure are nothing new, the city has been under a boil water notice for more than a month. Reeves in a statement acknowledged the all-too-common situation facing residents in the state’s capital city saying they “have become tragically numb to [it].” But he recognized that the current state of affairs is “a very different situation from a boil water notice.”

Reeves pointed out the seriousness of the plant failure, “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 fire and meet other critical needs.”

Hope that the emergency will help fix long-neglected infrastructure

“I have said on multiple occasions that it’s a not a matter of if our system would fail, but a matter of when our system would fail,” Lumumba said at a news conference Monday.

Although he lamented that the city has “been going it alone for the better part of two years,” at the news conference the day prior, on Tuesday the mayor welcomed the new help to tackle the ongoing water crisis. “The city of Jackson is grateful for the support that we are now receiving from the state,” Lumumba told reporters.

He hopes that the latest turn of events will focus attention from all levels of government to address the challenges of the deteriorating water infrastructure. Its estimated that it will cost around $1 billion to fix the city’s water system and a similar amount to fix the sewer system.

In the meantime though, residents will have to rely on bottled water for their daily necessities for the indefinite future. The Mississippi Rapid Response Coalition in partnership with the City of Jackson have provided a list of water distribution times and sites where residents can pick up bottled water each day.


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