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Water emergency declared in Mississippi amid flooding

Officials in Jackson, Miss. on Monday declared a water system emergency as residents experience low or no water pressure in the wake of severe flooding.

City officials are blaming recent rainfall that led to flooding on the Pearl River, which has added to previous issues that have plagued the O.B. Curtis Water Plant’s operations for years and led to a boil water notice late last month.

“All of this was with the prayer that we would have more time before their system ran to failure,” Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) said at a press conference on Monday evening. “Unfortunately, that failure appears to have begun today.”

Reeves said the facility’s main pumps were severely damaged recently and the plant began operating on smaller backup pumps at about the same time the boil water notice was issued in late July.

Meanwhile, Reeves said the state is working to distribute water to residents and advised them to not drink the running water even when brushing their teeth. The city is also setting up water distribution sites.

“Replacing our largest city’s infrastructure of running water with human distribution is a massively complicated logistical task,” he said.

Reeves said he did not invite Jackson’s mayor, Chokwe Lumumba (D), to the press conference but state officials had met with the city government about the water issues.

City officials said the water shortage is likely to last for the next couple of days, but clarified that Jackson was not cutting off water to residents.

The mayor’s emergency order references flooding of the Pearl River as the latest problem at the water plant, but the system has faced problems for years.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also identified concerns with the system and in March 2020 issued a Safe Drinking Water Act Emergency Administrative Order to address some of the issues.

The city experienced a system-wide failure, including frozen pipes and low water pressure, in February 2021 that led some residents going without water for several weeks.

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This story was originally published August 30, 2022 8:30 AM.

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