Following massive rains, the people of Jackson, Mississippi, and their nearby suburbs are finding themselves being forced into bottled water. With over 180,000 people dependent on its water table, Jackson can’t keep up. And then there’s the sting of having clean drinking water being cut off indefinitely as a real kick to the midsection.
With over 13 inches of rain falling over five days, their systems and sourcing for water just couldn’t keep up. On average, Jackson will receive four or five inches of rain over the entire month of August. By more than doubling that rainfall and receiving it in one-sixth of the month, there was just no way to keep up and handle everything correctly.
The surge of rains down the city’s Pearl River, in turn, completely flooded their water treatment plant. By shutting it down, people are now using bottled water for everything. There isn’t even enough water to flush toilets or take showers. However, this is a problem that has been well known to the city and state.
Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba told CNN that the state capital has known of this problem for years but nothing has been done about it. He explained that this has never been a question of if it would fail, but rather when.
MS Governor Tate Reeves had a press conference about the subject, where he went on to claim it was “a near certainty that Jackson would begin to fail to produce running water sometime in the next several weeks or months if something didn’t materially improve.” As this is a Jackson issue, Republican Governor Reeves did not invite the Democrat Mayor Lumumba to stand with him at the press conference.
This divisive issue not being turned into a political issue is largely based on Mayor Lumumba’s refusal to work with the state to improve the systems currently in place. While the state has been vetoing the bills being pressed to help the city, the mayor’s insistence on key points in these bills has been a root cause of them being vetoed.
Previously, the city has been on a boil-water notice since July due to murky water which would indicate a higher chance of diseases within the water supply. Things like E. Coli, Cryptosporidium, or Giardia are possible diseases in this kind of water, and something the Environmental Protection Agency warned of back in 2020. They have also had higher levels of lead in their drinking water since 2015.
The problems in Jackson have also been compounded by the loss of 50K residents over the last few decades. As people flee the city for the suburbs with better opportunities and cleaner water, it’s hard to keep them in the city that keeps trying to kill them or hold them back. This also means the tax basin is running dry and the money for repairs and upgrades just doesn’t exist.
Without that money, they have been looking to the federal government. President Biden pledged $75 million to help provide clean and safe drinking water. The problem is, that money is for the entire state, and the problem in Jackson alone is $1 billion, so Biden’s help doesn’t do much for Jackson or its residents. As money continues to be piped in for green initiatives and other public missions, the people of poor cities like Jackson, MS as well as Flint, Michigan, and Buffalo, NY will keep suffering from substandard water and other necessities of life.
No matter what other steps they take, the damage has already been done, and the people of these towns need to get their drinking water fixed sooner than later. The problem has been known for years now, and nobody has really done enough to help them. Perhaps President Biden should worry more about helping the people get the basic necessities and less on worrying about making electric cars the next big thing.