Mayor Lumumba says water connections being restored, welcomes state to the table
Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said Tuesday the city’s water pressure is seeing improvements thanks to efforts to restore pressure in the system overnight, and that more residents are with water now than yesterday.
The mayor addressed Gov. Tate Reeves’ announcement Monday night that Jackson’s main treatment plant had begun to fail to produce drinking water for the city, which preceded a state of emergency that the governor declared on Tuesday.
“We’ve been going it alone for the better part of two years when it comes to the Jackson water crisis,” Lumumba said at the briefing. “Now we are excited to finally welcome the state to the table.”
While the mayor expressed his gratitude for the state’s assistance, he also disputed some of what Reeves described Monday night. For one, Lumumba said Reeves’ claim that untreated water was entering the distribution system is false.
He also said the current failure to produce adequate water pressure at the O.B. Curtis treatment plant is a result of the recent Pearl River flooding, rather than the pump malfunctions that Reeves described. Lumumba clarified that a pump issue at J.H. Fewell, the city’s secondary treatment plant, prevented the city from producing more water from there as O.B. Curtis undergoes maintenance.
The Jackson mayor first announced the pressure issues on Monday, hours before Reeves made a more drastic forecast for the water crisis alongside officials from the state health department, which is in charge of enforcing that the city complies with federal drinking water laws.
Reeves said state health officials told him on Friday of the possibility that Jackson’s water system could fail completely. Lumumba said he hadn’t heard the health department’s assessment until yesterday, just a couple hours prior to the governor’s announcement.
The mayor also addressed the governor’s statement that the city doesn’t have enough water to fight fires, saying that the Jackson Fire Department had yet to indicate it needed more water. Between JFD’s reserves and help from the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, Lumumba said the city does have adequate water to fight fires.
Lumumba described Tuesday’s news from O.B. Curtis as encouraging, saying that the number of people with water has gone up since yesterday, though he didn’t specify how many people in the city were impacted. Much of the progress in restoring pressure comes overnight, when the demand for water is low, he said.
“We have seen steady improvements in the system,” the mayor said. “There are individuals who did not have water pressure at all yesterday in which water pressure has returned, and the reports of the tanks is that there are steady gains being achieved each and every moment.”
The state health department clarified Tuesday that Jackson’s water is safe to drink when boiled for one minute. MSDH tweeted the clarification after multiple statements from state officials, including Reeves, the state health officer and the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, saying plainly, “Do not drink the water.”