Mississippi Emergency Management Agency

Jackson water: Congress calls for probe of spending

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Lumumba, Reeves continue to point fingers as Congress calls for probe of Jackson water spending

About a month removed from a unified effort to lift Jackson out of its water crisis, city and state officials continue to trade public jabs, with the future of the water system on the line.

Meanwhile, the federal government is now tackling the crisis on multiple fronts, with members of Congress on Monday calling for an investigation into the state’s infrastructure spending.

Gov. Tate Reeves released a statement Monday criticizing Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba for being unwilling to work with the Unified Command Structure, a multi-agency taskforce that the state formed in late August to help diagnose, fund and fix issues at Jackson’s main water treatment plant.

Specifically, Reeves said city officials told his office they were unwilling to participate in the state’s emergency contract procurement to hire staff across the Jackson water system for a year. The posted the “request for qualifications,” or RFQ, on Friday.

“That would be a huge mistake by the city,” the governor said. “They would be communicating through this action that they no longer desire state assistance and insist on going it alone.”

Reeves said in his statement that the Environmental Protection Agency was pressing the state to hire support staff, and to “take the lead” in procuring the contract. The EPA told Jackson officials in late September it was “prepared to take action,” and then two weeks ago the Jackson City Council voted to enter into a confidentiality agreement with the Department of Justice in discussing a settlement.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves greets members of the Mississippi National Guard at a water distribution site located at the Mississippi Trade Mart in Jackson, Miss., Thursday, September 1, 2022.

Lumumba disputed that he was unwilling to participate in the unified approach, saying instead that city officials hadn’t had a chance to review the RFQ before the state published it.

“The City of Jackson has made no mention of ending the City’s cooperation with the Unified Command Structure,” the mayor said in a statement Monday. “What the city will not do is agree to a Request for Qualifications, without the entire Unified Command Structure, which includes the city, having had an opportunity to first contribute, revise or approve the language.”

Jackson, as the RFQ states, would be the entity funding the contract. Hence, Lumumba added: “It is only reasonable to expect the City to play a role in hiring that company.” 

The RFQ seeks staffing to run operations, maintenance, and management of both of the city’s surface water treatments plants — O.B. Curtis and J.H. Fewell — as well as Jackson’s tanks and well facilities, for a year.

The governor’s statement says Jackson officials had a chance to review the “technical components of the request,” but did not mention any other involvement from the city.

Before the state intervened in late August to take over the O.B. Curtis operations, Lumumba said the city was looking for an operations and management contractor to run the treatment plant.

Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, with City of Jackson Communications Manager Melissa Payne, fields questions during a community meeting held to update the public on the water system, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2022, at College Hill Missionary Baptist Church.

But at a community meeting on Sept. 13, the mayor said the company he was looking at would no longer negotiate because it was now talking with the state instead. Two days later, WLBT reported, the state awarded an operations contract to Hemphill Construction that lasts two months.

As part of the Unified Command Structure the state established in late August, the state and Jackson officials each agreed to pay half the costs for emergency repairs. then declared a federal emergency, which included paying for 75% of water system improvement costs for 90 days. That cost-share expires on Nov. 29.

The state’s Emergency Management Assistance Compact, or EMAC, contracts expire on Thursday, said. For weeks, the city and state have relied on the EMAC program to help rehabilitate O.B. Curtis through the work of out-of-state water operators.

Thompson, Maloney launch investigation over state’s role

U.S. Reps. Bennie Thompson and Carolyn Maloney sent a letter to Reeves on Monday asking for information on the state’s spending of federal drinking water funds. The two Democrats expressed concern over how Mississippi has divvied up historic amounts of federal funding thus far.

“The and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law made billions of dollars available to Mississippi to address a variety of problems,” the letter says, “However, criteria used by (state legislation) to allocate funding — such as median household income, possible population decline and unemployment rate — may limit the funding Jackson receives to other locales, despite Jackson’s much greater need.”

In the letter, Thompson and Maloney ask Reeves for a breakdown of how the state was allocating money from the American Rescue Plan Act. They also ask for details on the extra oversight state lawmakers required for sending matching funds to Jackson.

State lawmakers required that matching ARPA funds provided to Jackson go through the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration, a burden placed on no other municipality in the state.

Jackson residents and supporters hold signs as they march to the Governor’s Mansion in Jackson, Miss. to protest the ongoing water issues in the city on Monday, Sept. 26, 2022.

The letter also asks about an “arbitrary” $500,000 cap the state established in forgiving loans paid for with money from the Infrastructure Law.

The investigation comes after both the NAACP and the Poor People’s Campaign have in recent weeks called for legal action against the state for depriving the majority-Black city of support for its water system.

The questions over state support to Jackson follow a history of Mississippi lawmakers putting up obstacles for the city to access needed infrastructure funding.

In 2013, lawmakers voted to allow Jackson to add a 1-cent sales tax to help pay for infrastructure. However, lawmakers took the unusual step of creating a commission to oversee the spending and projects, over objections from city leaders, and lawmakers exempted many purchases from the additional tax. So far, most of the projects approved have been for street repairs.

In 2021, lawmakers killed a proposal from the city to allow city voters to decide whether to levy an additional, citywide 1-cent sales tax increase for water and sewerage repairs. The push came after historic winter storms that year left much of the city without water for weeks.

Also in 2021, the city of Jackson unsuccessfully lobbied lawmakers for $47 million in funding for drinking water improvements. The Jackson City Council also requested another $60 million to build new water tanks. With the state relatively flush with cash, lawmakers approved spending $356 million in projects statewide, but earmarked only $3 million for Jackson.

In an interview earlier this year with Mississippi Today, Lumumba described the Legislature’s attitude toward Jackson as both racist” and “paternalistic” in terms of how the capitol city is treated compared to other governmental entities.

Mississippi Today reporters Bobby Harrison and Geoff Pender contributed to this report.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

State of Mississippi seeking to hire a contractor for O.B. Curtis

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rssfeeds.clarionledger.com – Mississippi – 2022-10-15 11:12:32

The Agency is looking for a private company to staff the O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant, and other aspects of the water system, for one year under an emergency contract, according to a request for qualifications issued by on Friday.

The request comes one month after the 45-day long boil water notice in Jackson and Byram was lifted, and after state and federal partners stepped in to bring the plant, which is owned by the city of Jackson, back online following that overwhelmed the plant.

“MEMA is acting as the coordinating agency for the…

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Clean water restored for Jackson, Reeves hints at city losing control

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Clean water restored for Jackson, Reeves hints at city losing control


by Alex Rozier,
September 15, 2022

After a month and a half of Jacksonians needing to boil their water for consumption, the Mississippi State Health Department finally lifted the advisory at 1 p.m. on Thursday.


Gov. Tate Reeves announced the shortly after, cautioning there’s a long road ahead to ensure similar water system failures don’t occur again in Jackson.


”While we have restored water quality, this system is still imperfect,” Reeves said. “We cannot perfectly predict what may go wrong with such a broken system in the future.”


When asked by reporters about the next steps for managing the capital city’s drinking water, Reeves laid out the possibility that Jackson will not regain control of the system after the state declared a public health emergency and took it over.


“To the residents of Jackson, I would simply say, I don’t think it’s very likely that the city is going to operate the water system in the city of Jackson anytime soon, if ever again,” the governor said.


Reeves reiterated that any decision to remove the water system from city control would have to go through the state Legislature.


State officials first took control of operations and emergency repairs at Jackson’s primary treatment plant, O.B. Curtis, after the governor’s announcement on Aug. 29 that the plant was on the verge of failure.


The state is also taking the next steps to contract a project manager to handle equipment issues at O.B. Curtis, Agency executive director Stephen McCraney explained. The request for qualifications window closed Thursday at noon, and will review applications before it picks a vendor.


The goal for the contractor, Reeves said, is to increase redundancies at the plant in the case of future equipment failure.


Before Jackson residents return to drinking water straight from their taps again, the says they should first run their faucets for three to four minutes to allow clean water to recirculate. Residents can visit MSDH’s website for a full list of next steps after a boil water notice.


However, the department also warned Thursday that pregnant people and young children are still advised to follow precautions before using or consuming tap water.


The state’s announcement on Thursday that it was lifting the boil water notice suggested a lack of communication with City of Jackson officials.


On Wednesday, the city said in its daily update that full sampling required to lift the notice had not yet started, and that officials were still investigating when sampling could begin. Per state health requirements, the state health department has to record two straight days of clean samples to lift the notice.


When asked by a reporter for clarification, Reeves said, “I don’t read the city’s daily reports and I don’t think you should either.”


After another reporter asked what he meant by that, Reeves refrained from further criticizing the city, only saying that he recommends people use MEMA’s updates for the latest information on the water system.


MSDH Director of Health Protection Jim Craig also reminded Jackson residents, particularly young children and pregnant people, to take precautions consuming and using tap water because of the potential for lead in the water system until the city finishes the necessary corrosion control in the distribution system.


”Although the majority of home lead testing performed to date identified no lead or lead below the action level set by the (Environmental Protection Agency), the health department is continuing its recommendations as a special precaution, especially for households with young children or pregnant women,” Craig said.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

 

JSU: Jackson water crisis highlights limitation of government

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‘The wall people are running into’: For JSU student, city water crisis highlights limitation of government

Maisie Brown pulled her aunt’s army green Ford Edge onto I-55, heading north past the port-a-potties outside the Hilton on County Line Road. 

The Jackson State University junior was on a mission last Wednesday – two days after Gov. Tate Reeves declared a water emergency in Jackson – to deliver water to elderly and disabled people in the capital city. Her first stop was Academy Sports and Outdoors, a retailer in the plush city of Madison, to pick up nearly two dozen 24-packs of bottled water. 

That Brown had to trek outside the city limits to buy water is indicative of one of the many systemic issues at the heart of Jackson’s water crisis: The whiter, wealthier suburbs – recipients of population growth post-integration – aren’t dealing with the same crisis today.

“People look down on Jackson, but give it a decade,” Brown said before applying a light-pink shade of Victoria’s Secret lip gloss. “This is going to be everyone’s reality soon.” 

Like most people from the Jackson-metro area, Brown was rarely fazed by the city’s boil water notices, as typical as the crater-like potholes. The 22-year-old grew up seeing stacks of plastic water jugs in her grandparents’ house off State Street – “not because they like to drink water like a fish,” she said, “but sometimes you never know when it’s going to be on the and they tell you to boil water.” 

But Brown’s attitude changed on Aug. 29, when Reeves announced in an evening press conference that the city would be without clean, running water “indefinitely.” The pressure had dropped so low that many of Jackson’s 150,000 residents weren’t receiving water at all. 

In the coming days, the Mississippi National Guard would be staffing water distribution sites across the city – but getting there would require a car, a significant barrier in a state that has one of the lowest rates of car ownership in the country. 

That night, Brown realized it was unclear how, if at all, the state was planning to bring water to elderly and disabled folks who wouldn’t be able to drive to the distribution sites. So the student activist, known for her role in helping to coordinate the city’s largest protest since the movement, decided it was time to mobilize. She posted a call-out on social media for volunteers to help her deliver water. 

“The state has consistently ignored Jackson’s asks for help,” she said. “We are not high-priority for the people in power, because of the Black, poverty-stricken population that we are.”

Within 24 hours, Brown raised over nearly $2,500 (it’s more than $6,000 now) and assembled more than 20 JSU students to start the “MS Student Water Crisis Advocacy Team.” Together, they’ve delivered about 1,000 cases of water to more than 200 homes, organizing drop-offs via a shared spreadsheet.  

Marquise Hunt delivers water to a Jackson, Mississippi resident Tamela Davis on September 1, 2022.

Brown’s iPhone hasn’t stopped ringing since. That Wednesday morning, she got 14 calls: A Agency representative asked if she could include Brown’s number on a list of water distribution resources; a stranger requested a delivery for a friend with multiple sclerosis; several journalists from national media reached out for an interview.

Most calls were from Jacksonians who couldn’t get to the city and state distribution sites. Whether they offered an explanation or not, Brown delivered water. 

“If the government could do everything, then there’d be no nonprofit or grassroots organizations,” she said. “The whole structure of government, the way it’s built today, is not enough to help people. That’s the wall people are running into.” 

As Brown exited I-55, a 917 area code popped up on the Ford Edge’s dashboard. 

“Who is this from New York calling me?” Brown said. 

It was a producer from CNN – the first of five media calls Brown would receive that day on the temporary number she had created for the hotline. Before the producer could finish pitching Brown on a segment, she was interrupted by a Jacksonian who called the hotline for a water delivery. (Brown got so many calls from reporters last week that she had to post on Twitter asking them not to use the hotline.) 

“This is my phone all day long,” Brown said when she hung up. 

A few minutes later, she pulled into the shopping plaza where Academy was located and checked her phone, hoping they wouldn’t cancel her order like the in Byram had the day before.

Brown spotted two Academy workers wheeling cases of water on a blue platform dolly. She hopped out of the car to greet them, then popped the trunk. One of the workers stared at it for a second and frowned. 

“I know y’all are probably like who the f— is ordering 20 packs of water?” Brown said jokingly. 

“No, I get it,” he replied. “Y’all are good.” 

For Brown, a political science major, the water emergency has sparked big-picture questions about the role of government in a democratic society and who it really serves. The one-party state government doesn’t serve everyone in Mississippi, Brown said, because it was not elected by everyone. Black Mississippians, more likely to vote Democratic, are also disenfranchised at higher rates than white people. 

“We’re a red state, but we’re a Black state too,” Brown said. “People forget that part.” 

This perspective has led Brown to push for change on an array of systemic issues in Mississippi, including the state flag that held the Confederate battle emblem, the “pink tax” on menstrual products, and the disproportionate impact of abortion bans on Black and low-income people. 

Brown said she views this work as a way of building a better world – an outlook she adopted after reading the “Faces at the Bottom of the Well,” a book by Derrick Bell.

“The work you’re doing is not in vain, but will be a model for a new society – a better one,” Brown said, paraphrasing the introduction by the lawyer Michelle Alexander. “That keeps me motivated.” 

On her way back from Madison, Brown stopped at her first drop-off, an orange-and-red apartment complex behind a car dealership on South Frontage Road. Two young men helped Brown carry the 29-lb packs of water cases to the front door. 

Then it was off to west Jackson, where Brown had two stops to make. The first was at a house with red trim on Maple Street near Lanier High School, the first high school built for Black kids in Jackson. The woman who lived there wasn’t home but worried someone might take the water cases, so she asked Brown to leave them behind the bushes next to her doorstep. 

Even though Brown is from Madison, she’s well acquainted with this part of the city – her dad’s side of the family used to own a restaurant here, but now it’s boarded up. Brown also went to school in the city, because her dad is a principal in Jackson’s school district. On the weekends, he’d go to block parties to meet the community, and she’d tag along. 

“It’s very rare that people who don’t live in Jackson try to go to school here,” she said. “It’s always the opposite way.” 

Indeed, the phenomenon that Brown is getting at – white flight – is another contributing factor to Jackson’s water crisis. The overgrown bushes and derelict buildings in west Jackson are an above-ground symptom of the billions in lost tax dollars as 71% of white residents have left since 1980. Beneath the city, the water lines are deteriorating just the same. 

Marquise Hunt (left) and Maisie Brown deliver water to a Jackson, Mississippi resident on September 1, 2022.

The temperature was starting to get hot and muggy. Outside the yellow duplex where Brown made her next delivery, a man was blowing cut grass off the sidewalk. Brown thought about delivering water to the next-door neighbor, but decided against it – a pitbull, panting in front of a silver water bowl, guarded the porch. 

As Brown turned to leave, he asked if she had enough cases for the neighboring house – if so, he’d call the man who lived there to ask. 

“How long y’all doing the water?” he asked.

“As long as the money comes in to keep doing more,” she replied. 

Brown’s last stop for the day was in North Jackson at a red brick house in a subdivision near Hope Spring Missionary Baptist Church, one of the oldest churches in Jackson, established in 1865 to serve freed slaves. A woman answered the door, revealing a large painting of a white, fluffy cat in the dim entryway. 

“You brought me some water,” she remarked. “I didn’t have any water. Thank you.”

Sitting in her car in the woman’s driveway, Brown took a moment to pause. She turned up the volume on “America Has a Problem,” her favorite song from Beyonce’s latest album, and thought about preparing for a TV interview that night. 

“Alright,” she said, “let me figure out some things while I’m at a stopping point.” 

Then her phone rang.

The images in this story are from Deep Indigo Collective, a visual storytelling resource supporting news outlets reporting on the local impacts of environmental threats and the climate crisis. As a 501(c)(3) organization, Deep Indigo is proud to produce original visual journalism on behalf of our editorial partners across the United States.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Jackson water pressure improves Thursday, and state launches distribution sites

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Jackson water pressure improves Thursday, and state launches distribution sites

In their first shared press conference since both declaring states of emergency for the city’s water system, Gov. Tate Reeves and Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba detailed progress made in restoring pressure to residents on Thursday.

The Agency also launched seven “mega” distribution sites around the city at noon, working in conjunction with other state agencies as well as 600 members of the National Guard.

Since the governor’s Monday announcement that Jackson’s water treatment plant would soon begin to fail, pressure coming out of residents’ taps has fluctuated significantly. With no true estimate on the number of homes impacted, the city said that most of the over 40,000 surface water connections saw low or no pressure after setbacks on Wednesday.

Optimal pressure at the O.B. Curtis treatment plant is 87 pounds per square inch (PSI). After falling on Monday, the pressure climbed back up to 80 PSI on Tuesday morning, before dropping back down to 40 PSI on Wednesday, the city said. Officials said Thursday morning that it was back up to 78 PSI.

Tempering expectations, Reeves told residents Wednesday to expect further setbacks in the coming days as the city and state — now aided by contractors assessing the plant — address the array of needed repairs at O.B. Curtis.

According to ’s daily action report, State officials had, as of Wednesday, completed assessments of both the conventional and membrane sides of the plant, and used those to make a priority list for improvements. They also installed a temporary pump, and fixed another pump at the city’s secondary plant J.H. Fewell.

In the report, officials reiterate that both O.B. Curtis and J.H. Fewell lack sufficient Class A operators and maintenance staff.

Asked on Thursday what repairs were at the top of the priority list, Reeves said he didn’t have a full answer, but that fixing sensors to detect the pH levels ranked highly. He also said that one of the failed pumps at O.B. Curtis — which contributed to the city’s water pressure dropping in early August — may be back online by early next week.

Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson said since Monday, 145,000 gallons of fresh water were pumped from the state fairgrounds into tankers to support the state health lab, the Jackson Medical Mall, and the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration.

MEMA executive director Stephen McCraney said that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers arrived in Jackson Thursday morning to assess the city’s pumps. Mississippi Department of Public Safety Commissioner Sean Tindell and State Forester Russell Bozeman added that their agencies are helping to enforce safety measures at the distribution sites as well as facilitate transporting water to the sites, respectively.

Lumumba later spoke to the fact he and Reeves were finally appearing at a press conference together.

“I believe that my representation here is a symbol of the unity that is taking place, a symbol of a coalition that is working arm in arm to ensure that we keep the most primary focus on the residents of Jackson,” Lumumba said.

In MEMA’s daily action report for Wednesday, the agency reported that O.B Curtis produced 5 million gallons of water from its conventional side, down from 14 million on Tuesday, and 12 million from the membrane side, down from 16 million on Tuesday.

Use this link to see the updated list of distribution sites. Residents unable to pick up water in person can call MEMA’s crisis line at 1-833-591-6362

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Jackson water crisis has especially high stakes for kidney patients

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‘They need this in order to live.’ For kidney patients, the Jackson water crisis has especially high stakes

Thousands of Jacksonians with kidney failure rely on clean water to power the dialysis treatments that keep them alive. As the city’s water system collapses, dialysis providers have brought in tanker trucks full of water to ensure patients don’t have to miss their treatment.

Lack of access to clean water also creates risks for patients who perform their dialysis treatments at home– and puts kidney patients at greater danger of health consequences from impure water.

On Tuesday afternoon, Derek Whitaker pulled into the parking lot of the Jackson Medical Mall, towing a 6,000 gallon tank full of water from Broussard, Louisiana. A tanker truck from Missouri was already hooked up to a pump that was delivering water into the mall, which houses a dialysis unit.

Whitaker, who works with the disaster response company Macro, has traveled the country providing relief after hurricanes and tornadoes. Now, he and at least two colleagues have come to Jackson to deliver life’s most basic necessity – and one that is even more essential for people with kidney failure.

One dialysis nurse told Mississippi Today that about six weeks ago, her clinic brought in a tanker truck full of water because of pressure fluctuations. The dialysis process requires about 10 gallons a minute, she said. The clinic first needed to use the tanker truck about two weeks ago.

“They need this in order to live,” said the nurse, who requested not to be identified by name because she was not authorized to speak to the media. “And they would not live more than—some people a few days, some a week without dialysis … to have a city that doesn’t have water is just unconscionable to me. I don’t understand how it ever got to that.”

Mississippi has one of the country’s highest rates of kidney failure. More than 9,000 Mississippians are living with end-stage kidney disease, meaning their kidneys have essentially stopped functioning. Black Americans are roughly three times likelier than white Americans to develop kidney failure.  

In Jackson, the rate of kidney disease is 26% higher than the national average, according to the Mississippi Kidney Foundation. And Mississippians have the highest mortality rate from chronic kidney disease of any state in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dialysis is a medical procedure that acts as an artificial kidney. The patient’s blood is diverted into a machine where it passes through membranes that remove waste before returning it to the body. Patients can do dialysis at home after they have been trained in the process, or visit a clinic or hospital three times a week for about four hours.

A reliable water source is generally essential for dialysis, which can require 300 to 600 liters of ultra-clean water during a single week. The filtration systems clean the water – ordinary tap water isn’t clean enough for the process – but if the local water source isn’t producing water quickly enough, the process can’t work.

According to the health department, no dialysis centers in Jackson have had to close as of Wednesday. But almost all of them have had to make costly adjustments to continue operating. On Tuesday afternoon, officials said it still wasn’t clear when Jackson will have clean, abundant drinking water.

Fresenius Medical Care, the largest dialysis company in the city with four Jackson locations providing in-center treatment, said it had brought in tanker trucks for three of their facilities. At its southwest Jackson location, the truck has been in place for about a month or longer because of issues with water quality and pressure, said Richi Lesley, Mississippi regional vice president.

“It comes at a great expense,” he said. “The resources of getting a tanker truck in place, getting the tanker truck filled, having them on-site for the hours to set and support –  when you do think about in terms of how many shifts we’re operating at each of the facilities and each individual patient shift is normally around four hours, so it’s a lot of water.”

Lesley declined to specify how much each truck costs the company.

“If we gave the number, I think a lot of people would be running out trying to get in the tanker truck business,” he said.

The north Jackson Fresenius location still has water, he added, but a tanker truck is in position in case that changes.

A fourth Fresenius facility located inside St. Dominic Memorial Hospital uses the hospital’s independent water system.

Fresenius serves 500 to 600 patients in Jackson, Lesley said.

DaVita, Inc. operates three Jackson locations, two of which have been affected by the water crisis, said Chris Price, division vice president at DaVita, who oversees Mississippi operations. The company implemented “emergency water solutions” on Tuesday morning.

“These solutions include water from sources outside of Jackson that will remain subject to our full treatment and quality testing procedures,” Price said. “We will keep these emergency measures in place until confidence in the reliability of city water sources is restored.”

The water crisis also threatens Jacksonians’ ability to safely access dialysis at home because that process requires careful attention to hygiene, said TJ Mayfield, executive director of the Mississippi Kidney Foundation. Mayfield is a former dialysis patient who received a kidney transplant in 2019.

“If you don’t have water to flush, if you don’t have water to drain out your dialysis that you’re doing overnight or home dialysis, how do you clean it properly?” Mayfield said. “How do you make sure you wash your hands properly so that you don’t catch an infection? All of that plays a large factor into home dialysis.”

Mayfield said clean drinking water is critical for people with kidney conditions — and to ensure healthy people don’t develop kidney issues. When clean drinking water isn’t available or costs the same as soda, he pointed out, people are likelier to choose sugary drinks. He is working to distribute bottled water to dialysis patients in Jackson.

Valerie Bailey, a nurse practitioner with more than a decade of experience working with kidney patients in Jackson, said people with kidney issues are also more vulnerable to health problems from unclean water.

“Any renal patient has to be extremely diligent about keeping up with their fluid intake, because their kidneys are unable to properly filter out excess fluids,” Bailey said. “If they do not have clean water, then their body, their kidneys are not going to be able to filter out those impurities in the contaminated water, like a normally functioning kidney might be able to.”

Dialysis providers who spoke with Mississippi Today said they are experienced in disaster response, not only because industry standards require it, but also because Jackson has seen this before.

During the 2021 ice storm that crippled the city’s water system, Fresenius worked with () to ensure tanker trucks full of water could reach their clinics.

Whitaker, who came to the Medical Mall from Louisiana with the water tanker, drove around southern Louisiana after Hurricane Ida and to Kentucky after the devastating tornadoes earlier this year. The combat veteran often carries fuel to help people power generators after losing power.

“We kind of get out and see the countryside a little bit when there’s a disaster,” he said. He didn’t think much about the nature of the disaster — long-running and manmade — that had brought him to the mall parking lot.

“To me, it’s my job,” he said.

Whitaker said he doesn’t know how long he will be in Jackson. He’ll sleep in his truck and shower at the facility where he will refill the tanker, somewhere outside of town.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Jackson water crisis: an FAQ

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Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about the Jackson water crisis

The drinking water system in Jackson — Mississippi’s largest city and home to more than 160,000 residents — is failing, state officials announced on Monday.

Thousands of Jackson residents have no or little water pressure, and though local, state and federal officials are working to restore reliable service, they cannot yet say when that will happen.

Mississippi Today has compiled a list of answers to some commonly asked questions submitted by readers about the water crisis. This post will be updated.

What’s happening with the water in Jackson?

In late July, the state health department issued a city-wide boil water notice for Jackson because of turbidity, or cloudiness in the water. A couple weeks later in early August, city officials announced that some customers may experience low water pressure because of issues with the pumps at the O.B. Curtis treatment plant.

Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said on Monday that from the Pearl River forced plant operators to change how they were treating the water, and that the whole city could see low water pressure as a result. Gov. Tate Reeves later on Monday blamed the low pressure on the poor-performing pumps. Lumumba has since reiterated that the flooding is the main issue at hand, while Reeves has since said the low pressure results from a combination of the two problems.

Since Monday, many homes in Jackson have seen lower or no water pressure, and state and city officials have instructed the city not to consume the water without boiling it first.

Where can I go to get water?

Many organizations, along with the City of Jackson, are distributing water for free at locations across the city. Find a list of addresses here. For those with mobility issues, call the city’s constituent services or 311, although officials urge people to reserve that line for those who can’t get water otherwise.

If I have water, is it safe to use?

Water is not safe to consume unless boiled for one minute. Residents should also use boiled water for making ice, brushing their teeth, washing dishes and other food preparation, the state health department says. The said it is safe to use unboiled water for baths and showers as well as washing hands and clothes, but people should avoid letting water get in their mouths.

What are state and city leaders doing to fix this?

While Mayor Lumumba has said for the better part of two years that the drinking water system is in a constant state of emergency and that the city does not have the funds to fix it, Jackson has begun to use new federal funds on a number of projects to improve the system, such as building a new distribution line to alleviate pressure issues, as well as weatherizing the O.B.Curtis plant to help prevent shutdowns like what Jackson saw after the winter storms in 2021.

After reluctance to provide additional funding to the city, Gov. Tate Reeves has this week thrown state resources into Jackson to help diagnose and fix the problems at the treatment plant. State health department officials are now working from the plant in-person, and Reeves said the state will cover half the costs of emergency maintenance, repairs, and improvements. 

What is the federal government doing?

Late Tuesday night approved a federal emergency declaration for the Jackson water crisis, which will provide federal resources to assist local and state officials. Emergency protective measures, the White House said, will be provided at 75% federal funding for a period of 90 days.

Do you know how long it will be before the systems are back working?

Officials cannot say when things will be fixed, but have warned it’s not an immediate fix. Gov. Reeves and other officials have said as fixes are made at the plant, there is concern other things will break because of neglected maintenance — and the plant lacks “redundancy” and staff to maintain these repairs as well. 

State, local and even federal officials are in talks of more permanent solutions. 

Is raw water really flowing through the pipes in Jackson? How long will the water be unsafe to drink?

At a press conference Monday, Gov. Tate Reeves said “raw” water from the Ross Barnett Reservoir had been pumped through the drinking water system. Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba later said this was inaccurate, and officials later clarified it is more accurate to say the water has not been optimally treated and is still not safe to drink.

Officials cannot say how long before water issues will be solved.

How long should I boil my water?

The recommends Jacksonians boil water vigorously for one minute and let cool before consuming.

Can I bathe in this water? Wash my hands?

Health officials say the water is safe to use for bathing and handwashing, but should not be consumed without boiling first for one minute.

Can I use my dishwasher if I still have water pressure?

The Mississippi State Department of Health has said to use boiled water to clean dishes.

What can I do to help?

The Community Foundation for Mississippi has compiled a helpful resource page that includes information about how to give to organizations working to help Jacksonians. Visit their resource page here. People can also contact the Agency on ways to help at memainfo@.ms.gov.

How many people are impacted?

Officials don’t know how many households are impacted by low or no water pressure. Gov. Reeves said Tuesday it was impossible to say how many of the roughly 160,000 people served by the system are without water — that it depends on how close one is to a water tank, elevation and numerous other factors. But Jim Craig, director of health protection for the state health department, said that the O.B. Curtis plant, rated for 50 million gallons of water a day, on Tuesday was only pushing about 30 million gallons.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba welcomes state help

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rssfeeds.clarionledger.com – Mississippi – 2022-08-30 18:53:21

Jackson officials said Tuesday they enthusiastically welcome Monday’s emergency declaration by Gov. Tate Reeves providing state resources to address the city’s water crisis.

“I want to state emphatically we are grateful for the assistance,” Mayor Chokwe Lumumba said during Tuesday afternoon press conference.

Lumumba described his meeting Monday with officials from the Agency and the state Department of Health as “very productive” and said, “I firmly believe the residents of Jackson are worthy of this support.”

Jackson, Miss., Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba addresses the city's partnership with the state to help address the water crisis in the Capital city during a news conference in Jackson Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2022. On Monday, Gov. Tate Reeves announced state assistance to help with Jackson's water issues.

Reeves on Monday said the state…

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Jackson: Drinking water emergency declared

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State health department declares drinking water emergency for Jackson

The state health department declared a public drinking water supply emergency for Jackson on Tuesday, the morning after Gov. Tate Reeves announced that the city’s treatment system had begun to fail.

The release listed the following reasons for the declaration:

• Insufficient number of certified operators at J.H. Fewell and O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plants
• Insufficient number of maintenance staff at all water treatment plants and to support the distribution system
• Failure of multiple raw water pumps at O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant
• Low levels of water in storage tank
• Low water pressure impacting proper sanitation and education opportunities

The statement also said that disinfection levels are not reliable enough to prevent the potential of disease-causing organisms in the drinking water, including E. Coli, cryptosporidium, and giardia.

As part of the declaration, the Mississippi State Health Department is ordering that City of Jackson employees “cooperate with state response teams and contractors deployed to augment current staffing and to take remediation actions deemed necessary by the State Incident Commander.”

In his announcement on Monday, Reeves said that the state was deploying health department staff to O.B. Curtis on Tuesday to evaluate the plant’s ability to produce water.

In a tweet Tuesday, the Agency instructed Jackson residents on what to do and not do during the current boil water notice. wrote not to drink the water, although neither MEMA nor MSDH have clarified since yesterday whether or not the water is safe to drink after boiling it.

Yesterday, State Health Officer Dr. Daniel Edney instructed residents to boil water for three minutes before using water to drink, brush teeth or cook.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Jackson water system is failing, city with no or little water indefinitely

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Jackson water system is failing, city will be with no or little drinking water indefinitely

The drinking water system in Jackson — Mississippi’s largest city and home to more than 160,000 residents — is failing, state officials announced on Monday. Thousands of Jackson residents already have no or little water pressure, and officials cannot say when adequate, reliable service will be restored.

The city water system has been plagued with problems for years, including tens of thousands of residents losing water between one and three weeks during a 2021 winter storm.

At a press conference Monday night, Gov. Tate Reeves said the city’s largest water treatment plants may be completely down.

“The O.B. Curtis plant is not operating anywhere near full capacity,” Reeves said. “We may find out tomorrow it’s not operating at all. We’ll have better visibility on that when we get in there tomorrow.”

Reeves announced he would sign an emergency declaration for the capital city’s water system and create an “incident command center” to distribute water to the city’s residents beginning Tuesday morning.

“Until it is fixed, it means we do not have reliable running water at scale,” Reeves said. “It means the city cannot produce enough water to fight fires, to reliably flush toilets, and to meet other critical needs.”

BACKGROUND: ‘A profound betrayal of trust’: Why Jackson’s water system is broken

When Reeves announced the system was failing Monday at 7 p.m., Jackson leaders, including Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, had not addressed the public about the failure of the water system. Lumumba did declare a “water system emergency” Monday around 6 p.m., saying in a statement the “water shortage is likely to last the next couple of days.”

Lumumba was not invited by Reeves to attend the Monday evening press conference. While Reeves said he had not spoken directly with the mayor, he did say the city leader had agreed to work with state officials to address the problem. Employees with the will be working Tuesday with city operators to try to get the plant back on line.

“The operators (of the O.B. Curtis facility) have been heroic, just not enough of them,” Reeves said, adding the city employees will be crucial to get the plant running again.

State Health Officer Dr. Daniel Edney urged Jackson residents to “husband their water resources,” and to boil their water for three minutes before using it to drink, brush teeth, or cook.

Reeves revealed that he became aware of the possibility that O.B. Curtis could fail completely on Friday. State health officials told him that the city was relying on backup pumps because the main pumps had been “damaged severely” around the time the current boil water notice went into place on July 29.

“We were told on Friday that there was no way to predict exactly when, but that 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,” Reeves said. “We began preparing for a scenario where Jackson would be without running water for an extended period.”

The governor said his team began coming up with a water distribution plan over the weekend.

“All of this was with the prayer that we would have more time before their system ran to failure,” Reeves said. “Unfortunately that failure appears to have begun today.”

READ MORE: Flooding exacerbates Jackson’s water crisis, raises calls for state intervention

On Tuesday, an incident command center will be set up and state employees will go into the O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant to try to restore it to full operation. The plant has been operating at partial capacity for a number of days, Reeves said. For more than a month, the city has been under a state health department-issued boil water notice, but on Monday because of the problems with the plant much of Jackson lost water pressure.

Reeves said the first goal is to restore water quantity so that people can flush toilets and take a shower and then to restore quality to end the boil water notice.

As a short-term plan, Reeves said the state will cashflow emergency improvements, maintenance and repairs, which will include contracting operators to assist at the treatment plant. He said Mayor Lumumba agreed to a plan where the city would be responsible for half of the cost of the operation.

“We will come up with a solution that will be great for the city of Jackson,” said Agency executive director Stephen McCraney. The governor, though, did not address long-term plans involving possible legislation to earmark state funds to provide a long-term fix for the troubled water system.

McCraney added that Emergency Management Agency had secured water for potential firefighting needs and that the state would be bringing in both water for drinking and for other sanitary needs.

He said it is not unlike what , in conjunction with the National Guard and other agencies, do after hurricanes. But as of Monday night, the governor had not activated the National Guard to assist the Jackson crisis.

“It is a massive undertaking,” McCraney said, adding “the state of Mississippi is good at distribution.”

Water will first be available at fire stations in town.

O.B. Curtis is supposed to provide about 50 million gallons for the city daily while Fewell, the other main treatment plant, provides 20 million. Fewell has been ramped up to provide 30 million.

Reeves said it is not clear how much of Jackson is completely without water.

The announcement comes after weekend Pearl River caused some businesses and schools to close Monday and prompted some leaders to call for the state to take action on the city water system.

Jackson , one of the largest school districts in the state, announced Monday night that it would switch to virtual learning “indefinitely” due to water shortages. Jackson State University announced Monday night it would hold classes virtually for the remainder of the week, adding that water will be delivered to all residential halls and temporary restrooms will be available to students and faculty beginning Tuesday morning.

READ MORE: Mississippi Today’s full coverage of the Jackson water crisis

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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