Jackson, Mississippi, lacks reliable drinking water for the indefinite future after pumps at the water treatment facility failed ― a problem the city’s mayor attributed to recent flooding.
“Until it is fixed, it means we do not have reliable running water at scale,” Gov. Tate Reeves (R) said at a Monday press conference, per the Mississippi Free Press. “It means the city cannot produce enough water to fight fires, to reliably flush toilets, and to meet other critical needs.”
He said the state plans to call in the National Guard to help distribute bottled water, adding that water would need to be provided “for up to 180,000 people for an unknown period of time.”
Jackson has a population of around 150,000, and about 30,000 people in surrounding communities also rely on the same water system.
The state Health Department urged residents to boil any water they have for at least three minutes before drinking it or using it to cook or brush their teeth, Mississippi Today reported.
The state capital had already been on a boil notice for about a month. That guidance went out around the same time that the main pumps at the O.B. Curtis water treatment facility were “damaged severely” and the facility had to resort to using smaller backup pumps, according to Mississippi Today.
Those backup pumps failed this week, Reuters reported. Many homes and businesses have no running water at all, and when people do have water, it may be completely untreated.
“Do not drink the water,” Reeves said. “In too many cases, it is raw water from the reservoir being pushed through the pipes.”
Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba (D) attributed Monday’s pump failure to “complications from the Pearl River flooding.” Record rainfall caused the river to crest Monday, flooding streets and swelling the water levels in the reservoir that supplies the area’s water.
However, Reeves said at Monday’s press conference that he “can’t comment on what effect the flooding may or may not have had.”
The state’s water treatment plant has faced serious issues for years. Last year, the water system effectively collapsed after a winter storm caused frozen and burst pipes at the facility, local news station WWNO 89.9 reported. Lumumba said at the time that the city needed around $2 billion to sufficiently upgrade its sewage and water systems.