Mississippi pump failure leaves 150,000 people without safe drinking water

The water supply in Jackson, Mississippi, remained unsafe for its 150,000 residents to drink or brush their teeth Tuesday after water treatment pumps failed Monday, exacerbating the city’s ongoing water crisis.

Excessive rainfall had doused the state capital and central Mississippi throughout August, and flooding of the Pearl River has created issues treating water at a Jackson plant, causing its pumps to fail, officials said.

Gov. Tate Reeves announced a a state of emergency and warned residents to not drink the water Monday night as he said Jackson, where he also lives, did not have reliable running water.

“It means the city cannot produce enough water to fight fires, to reliably flush toilets and to meet other critical needs,” the governor said.

FLOODWATERS IN MISSISSIPPI:Pearl River crests just below major flood stage

An SUV rests in flood waters in this northeast Jackson, Miss., neighborhood, Monday, Aug. 29, 2022. Flooding affected a number neighborhoods that are near the Pearl River. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency planned to distribute drinking and non-drinking water for up to 180,000 residents in the city and surrounding areas, Reeves said. The city had been under a boil-water notice since late July when tests found a cloudy quality to the water that could lead to health problems.

Meanwhile, the bloated Pearl River’s water levels continued to drop Tuesday ⁠— to 34.1 feet, according to the National Weather Service ⁠— after cresting at 35.4 feet, just below the major flood stage of 36 feet, on Monday. 

Jackson has two water treatment plants. The larger one, O.B. Curtis, sits near a reservoir that provides most of the city’s water supply. The reservoir also has a role in flood control.

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba declared a water system emergency Monday in response to the O.B. Curtis Water Plant’s water pressure issues.

The recent shortage has left many Jackson residents with low to no water pressure and it was expected to last at least “the next couple of days,” according city officials. 

“What I liken it to is if you were drinking out of a Styrofoam cup, someone puts a hole in the bottom of it, you’re steady trying to fill it while it’s steady running out at the bottom,” Lumumba told the Associated Press.

Jackson has dealt with longstanding water system issues, including the 2021 cold snap that left people with frozen pipes and no running water. Similar problems happened again earlier in 2022 on a smaller scale.

Contributing: The Associated Press

MORE STORMS:600,000 without power as storms slam Michigan, Indiana

Floodwaters covered the streets in some parts of the North Canton Circle neighborhood of Jackson, Miss., on Monday, Aug. 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Michael Goldberg)