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Flooding exacerbates Jackson’s water crisis, raises talk of state action

Pearl River flooding is exacerbating Jackson’s drinking water crisis, causing some businesses and schools to close Monday and prompting some leaders to call for the state to take action over the capital city’s troubled system.

On social media, state Sen, David Blount, D-Jackson, called for Gov. Tate Reeves to convene a special session to help repair the water system.

“Every day for the past few weeks I have been talking to state, county, city, and business leaders about the Jackson water system failure. We are in a crisis and we need to take action now. The status quo is not acceptable,” Blount said.

“Today I have asked Gov. Tate Reeves to call a special session of the Legislature to deal with the crisis.”

In a lengthy social media post, Blount said it was time for the state to use a portion of its more than $2.5 billion in surplus funds to help fix the beleaguered water system.

Blount said, “It is important to remember that in the recent past the state has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to benefit regional utility authorities on the Gulf Coast and in DeSoto County. The state also sent money to Rankin County to build a new sewer plant. The state, with unprecedented money in the bank, must step up and invest in Jackson and save a system that serves almost one-10th of all Mississippians. We must aside political and partisan differences and act now.’

But the Jackson Democrat also pointed out that the system must be better run on a local level, pointing out the city is losing millions of dollars annually because many Jackson residents never receive bills for their water usage.

“If every treatment plant and pipe were fixed today, we’d be back in this situation soon without fixing the billing,” he said.

Some restaurants and other businesses in the Fondren area closed Monday as water pressure dropped to a trickle, and state agencies downtown were warned of a possible “system-wide water outage.” Several schools in the Jackson Public School District were forced to switch to virtual learning due to ongoing low water pressure and the threat of flooding.

Jackson’s antiquated, poorly maintained water and sewerage system has seen recurring failures — including loss of water for much of the city for a month after winter storms in 2021. Federal authorities have issued warnings the system is at risk of failure and of harmful contaminant levels. The city has been under a boil water notice for more than a month.

In a press conference on Monday to announce the Pearl River crested lower than expected and likely won’t bring widespread flooding of homes and businesses, Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba announced the city had to reduce pressure for the entire city water system because of infiltration of floodwater. He said low-pressure issues could persist for a few days.

But in a message to state agencies downtown, the state Department of Finance and Administration warned the situation may be even more dire, and “there may be a system-wide water outage for the City of Jackson for the next several days.”

“We have spoken to the Governor’s office regarding the possible outage,” the message to state agencies said. “Please use your discretion for the health and safety of your agency.”

The long-running city water crisis has prompted talk of a state intervention — perhaps even a takeover — of the system. But the estimated $1 billion price tag for a fix is daunting.

“I’m on the verge of saying that the state has got to step in and take over,” House Speaker Philip Gunn said on Supertalk radio last week. “But the size of the problem is so great that I’m not even sure the state can meet the needs. It’s going to require federal help.”

Efforts by Mississippi Today to garner comments on Monday from Reeves, Gunn and Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann about the Jackson water issues were unsuccessful Monday.

While officials took solace in the less-than-expected Pearl River flooding Monday, Lumumba announced that the city had to reduce water pressure for the entire system because of an adjusted treatment procedure.

“Because of the river water that’s coming into the plant, we have to change the way we treat the water,” Lumumba said during a press conference Monday. “Because of the chemical composition of the water coming in, they have to figure out how they can tend with that additional water coming in.

“That has led to the reduction of water being put out into the system which consequently reduces the tank levels and affects system-wide the water pressure in the homes of our residents.”

Lumumba’s comments on the latest Jackson water system woes came at the end of the press conference Monday after the Pearl River crested at just under 35 and a half feet that morning, under the original projection of 36 feet. The flood waters had only reached inside of one home, the mayor said.

The flooding came as a result of heavy rains last month, resulting in the wettest August on record for central Mississippi.

The post Flooding exacerbates Jackson’s water crisis, raises talk of state action appeared first on Mississippi Today.

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