Officials say Jackson is seeing some improvement in the long-distressed water system

Jackson, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi officials set up emergency distribution centers for handouts of water and hand sanitizer in the capital, Jackson, on Thursday, as efforts continued to restore flood-ravaged, long-distressed water systems.

Jackson’s residents were ordered to boil-water before flooding from the Pearl River exacerbated long-standing problems at one of the city’s two water treatment plants.

Officials said they made overnight progress in refilling tanks, treating water and increasing pressure at the Obie Curtis Water Plant, the facility at the root of the latest water crisis in Jackson. A city news release said the pressure from residents close to the facility was close to normal levels, but added that the city still experienced little or no water pressure.

In an afternoon news conference with Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumba and other officials, Reeves announced the opening of seven sites for the distribution of drinking water, drinking water and hand sanitizer. He said 600 National Guard members were assisting in the response. Seven new “mega-sites” follow small-scale distribution efforts at city fire stations, churches, nonprofits and businesses.

“To everyone in town: I know you’re dealing with a very unfair situation,” Reeves said in remarks aimed at city residents. “It’s frustrating, it’s wrong and it needs to be fixed.”

Reeves and the director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, Stephen McCranie, stressed that the state would seek long-term solutions to the city’s water problems.

Members of the Mississippi National Guard hand out bottled water at Thomas Cardozo Middle School on Sept.
Members of the Mississippi National Guard hand out bottled water at Thomas Cardozo Middle School on Sept.

Brad West via Getty Images

Reeves said the water crisis affects the city’s 150,000 residents – many of whom were unable to take showers or flush toilets – as well as an estimated 30,000 who come to the city to work in businesses without water pressure.

Reeves said those businesses are taking huge economic losses because of the crisis. McCranie said the state would look into the availability of federal Small Business Administration loans to aid them.

Figures for how many residents or businesses were directly affected by the water damage at any given time were not available Thursday.

Jackson schools held online classes on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and some restaurants were closed. Portable toilets are parked outside the Capitol. Jackson State University brought temporary restrooms for the students.

Lisa Jones fills empty paint buckets with water at a distribution site in South Jackson on Wednesday. He said that his family would use the water for bathing. She said that she is disappointed with the payment of water service which she is not getting.

“Every week you have to beg someone to go to their house and ask if you and your kids can take a bath. And then you’re raising their bills,” Jones said. “If we can’t fix it, we should find someone who can. … fix what’s broken. Enough is enough.”

Reeves declared a state of emergency Monday night after exacerbating problems at the treatment plant following excessive rain and flooding from the Pearl River. On Tuesday, President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for the state. Biden called on Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba on Wednesday to discuss response efforts, including support from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers.

On Thursday morning, the city reported “significant progress” in restoration efforts at the treatment plant, with production at 78 pounds per square inch, close to the target of 87 psi.

“There are still challenges to navigate as the intake water source again changes chemistry. Operator schedules have been adjusted to increase coordination between shifts,” the city statement said.

In addition to on-site repairs, the city is working to obtain more chemicals needed for the treatment.

Michael Goldberg is a core member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on secret issues. follow him on twitter twitter.com/mikergoldberg,

Associated Press writer Kevin McGill in New Orleans contributed to this report.

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