Sept 5 – The Mississippi city of Jackson said most of its water pressure had returned to normal on Sunday, a week after its main treatment plant failed, while U.S. officials warned it was still too early to say when a reliable supply of drinking water is ensured can be restored.
The black state’s capital of 150,000 and about 30,000 people in surrounding communities have been without reliable drinking water since Monday when complications from flooding knocked the O.B. Curtis Water Plant offline.
People were urged to boil any tap water before drinking while state and federal authorities declared a state of emergency and distributed bottled water in the meantime.
On Sunday, water pressure exceeded the city’s goal for the first time and several storage tanks around the city were full, the city said in a statement while warning that progress could fluctuate due to more repairs and adjustments.
“All of Jackson should now have pressure and most are now experiencing normal pressure,” the city said while leaving a boil water advisory in effect.
Meanwhile, Deanne Criswell, head of the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), told CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday that it was “too early to say” when the plant would be fully operational again, and that FEMA was focused on securing a supply of packaged drinking water.
“It’s going to happen in phases,” said Criswell, whose agency has been tasked by President Joe Biden’s administration with coordinating disaster relief efforts for Jackson.
“Longer-term and medium-term about how long it will take to actually be safe to drink, I think we need to learn a lot more about what it will take to get the plant up and running,” Criswell said.
The failure in Jackson highlighted the problem of America’s crumbling infrastructure. Signature legislation Biden helped pass early in his presidency earmarked millions of dollars for Mississippi and Jackson for water infrastructure.
The crisis has crippled Jackson, forcing many stores and restaurants to close, while the public school system and Jackson State University have had to move classes online.
Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba told ABC News that the city’s water infrastructure was broken due to wear and tear and climate change.
He said the city can have the water approved as safe to drink in days, not weeks, but providing a “reliable and sustainable” water treatment facility is “a much longer road ahead.”