Jackson’s water crisis

From Issue 8

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Graphic by Alex Roberson

The city’s water system recently went to the point of failure and beyond.

February’s winter storm had more of an impact than just power outages and icy roads. It crippled the city of Jackson’s water system to the point of widespread loss of pressure and a citywide boil water advisory, something unprecedented for the seat of a state’s government.

As in winter’s past, Jackson’s water system has been put under duress, with several water main breaks and boil water notices commonplace. However, a colossal failure of this magnitude has not been seen in quite some time, indicative of the true shape of the city’s infrastructure. A boil water advisory was issued on February 16 and was lifted on March 17. This means Jackson homes and businesses had unsafe drinking water flowing through their systems for just over a month, which is unheard of in modern America.

Even more incredible is the fact that some connections still had no running water at all, three weeks later. Not even potable water, such as that used to flush toilets. South Jackson was hit especially hard by this water outage, as it is further away from the city’s main water facility, the O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant.

At the top of city leadership, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba has asked state officials for $47 million dollars to help fix the city’s broken infrastructure. He has also proposed a one percent sales tax hike on top of the existing one percent, resulting in a two percent added sales tax in Jackson. Recently, he has sparred with Mississippi’s Lieutenant Governor, Delbert Hosemann, over comments Lumumba alleged he made during a meeting between the two. He says that Hosemann attempted to extort him by using the Jackson Airport as leverage, a property the city currently owns.

Politics aside, the water crisis is truly a monumental event in Jackson’s history, serving as yet another reminder of the need to replace an old and unreliable infrastructure system.