Many residents of Jackson, Mississippi, have been without water since a winter storm hit the area in February. And many are still not sure when it will return.
The storm, which also affected Texas and Louisiana, caused 80 water breaks throughout the city. Public Works Director Dr. Charles Williams said Monday that 50 have now been repaired, but the water crisis is far from over.
“The system got so far down, and we got behind, and now we’re trying to play catch up,” he said.
Jackson has been on a boil-water advisory since February 23. Meanwhile, some residents are still experiencing little to no water pressure in parts of the city.
The city has taken to providing “flushing water” to residents, and has continued distributing water bottles, said Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba during the Monday news conference. The Pelicans, New Orleans’ NBA team, are also donating two truckloads of bottled water to the residents, the team said Monday, with distribution being handled by the city.
The major issue, city officials said, is the aging infrastructure, which has delayed full access to water.
“Our system just, you know, basically crashed like a computer, and now we’re trying to rebuild it,” Williams said during a briefing Sunday. “It’s just, the progress has been very slow.”
At that same briefing, Lumumba said the city still doesn’t know how many people are without water, but it’s aware the primary areas impacted are the west and south parts of the city.
The city of Jackson is 82% Black, according to the US Census. The majority of White residents in the area live in wealthier suburbs to the north and east of the city.
The water problem has been such a major fact of life in the state, that one Mississippi-based online retailer is selling shirts reading “Welcome to Boil Water Alert Mississippi.”
On the city’s official Facebook page, the comments sections are filled with many people admonishing the government for not fixing the water infrastructure in Jackson in years past.
“Every year we have some type of issue with the water. This didn’t just start but every year you gotta PLAN and stop just trying to put a bandage on the problem WHEN it happens,” said Facebook user Mary Evans Fox.
“They have had over three years to fix the problem what is their excuse,” wrote user Bettye Franklin. “If this was a White city I guarantee you it would be fixed.”
The city will need money and resources to prevent events like this from happening again, Lumumba said Monday, saying the pipes in the city are over 100 years old.
Jackson currently does not have the funds to adequately fix damaged infrastructure he said, explaining, “We need long-term support to deal with this issue that has gone without being addressed sufficiently for decades.”