Jackson resident Dorothy Mannie described her experience of obtaining bottled water that the Mississippi National Guard distributed at Cardozo Middle School in Jackson, Miss., on Friday, Sept. 2, as a pleasant one. The capital city continues to reel from the consequences of the operational disruption that occurred at the O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Center on Monday, with many residents searching for means of acquiring clean water for home use.
“The experience was wonderful,” Mannie told the Mississippi Free Press as she sat in her vehicle after receiving the bottled water. “I just drove in, they loaded up for me the way I wanted it—I asked them to put it in the truck, and they put it in there for me—and I thanked them.”
“They said, ‘Thank you, ma’am; you have a blessed day’—that’s courtesy and manners,” she added. “They’ve got good manners,; they are really respectful, and that’s a good thing. Ain’t nobody got no attitude.”
After declaring a state of emergency on Tuesday, Aug. 30, Gov. Tate Reeves announced Thursday that six places in Jackson and one in Byram would give out potable and non-potable water: the State Fairgrounds (1200 Mississippi St.), the Metrocenter Mall (3645 Highway 80 W.), Smith Wills Stadium (1200 Lakeland Drive), Thomas Cardozo Middle School (3180 McDowell Road Extension), Northwest Jackson Middle School (7020 Highway 49 N.), Hinds Community College (3925 Sunset Drive), all in Jackson, as well as Davis Road Park (2515 Davis Rd.Road, Byram).
“These sites will offer bottled water, bulk non-potable water and hand sanitizer.; Tthey will be open from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. each day until further notice,” Reeves said at a press conference on Thursday. “We have been working in coordination with the City and their distribution plans, primarily at fire stations, over the last 48 hours.”
The governor said people can get information on available resources by calling the MEMA call center at 1-833-591-6362 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
‘Love Thy Neighbor’
Greenville, Miss., Mayor Errick D. Simmons announced that he had dispatched an 18-wheeler load of water to Jackson on Thursday. In the endeavor, he is partnering with community members and some businesses, including —Kroger Food, MMK Trucking, Simmons & Simmons Law Firm, W.L. Burle Engineers, Mitchell Distributing and the Greenville Local Organizing Committee. He asked people to call 662-378-1501 to contribute to future efforts to help the capital city.
“I’ve been in close contact with (Jackson) Mayor (Chokwe A.) Lumumba and his team regarding the current water crisis in Jackson, Miss. I assured him that the City of Greenville stands with the City of Jackson and will continue our efforts to assist them during this time,” Simmons said in the release. “When our neighbor is in need, we are in need, and should lend a helping hand.”
“The Bible commands us to love thy neighbor as thyself,” Simmons added. “I encourage all cities and towns in Mississippi to join in on this effort to help our capital city.”
The Working Together Jackson coalition is working to serve people in South Jackson and is asking for donations and volunteers at New Horizon Church (1770 Ellis Ave.). Those interested can call the church at 601-371-1427 or make donations here.
“If you have resources (church groups, businesses, concerned individuals, etc.) that can donate bottled water, we need to get it to New Horizon for distribution ASAP,” the organization said in the Sept. 1, 2022, release. “They have the facilities to handle everything from a case of bottled water up to a semi-truck.”
“Additionally, they need volunteers to help distribute the water,” he said. “If you show up at New Horizon, they will put you to work.”
Yates: ‘It Is Simply Inexcusable’
Mississippi State Rep. Shanda Yates, I-Jackson, released a statement on Sept. 1, 2022, reflecting on the water crisis’s effect and proffering solutions.
“Those of us who live and work in or around the city of Jackson were keenly aware that the city’s water/sewer system has been on the verge of collapse for quite some time,” she saidwrote. “The last thirty days have nonetheless been trying for even the most devout champions of our capital city.”
“Businesses are failing. Schools are closed. Residents do not have safe drinking water or, in many instances, even the ability to flush toilets,” Yates added. “In 2022, it is simply inexcusable for a capital city of any state within the United States to consistently be without running water.”
Yates said that solutions may lie in “creating a regional water authority or having a court-appointed receiver assume operations of the city’s water/sewer system.”
“Each option certainly comes with its own set of advantages and challenges which must be addressed accordingly,” she added. “However, what is abundantly clear is that we, as a state, must act now and we must be forward-thinking in our actions.”
Systemic Racism at ‘Root of Crisis
In a statement on Wednesday, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Legal Defense Fund President and Director-Counsel Janai Nelson emphasized the impact of the crisis on the Black population.
“LDF has long argued that access to clean, healthy, reliable water is a human right. Black communities like Jackson, Flint, Detroit, Cleveland, and other marginalized communities continue to suffer most acutely from this issue,” she wrote. “LDF will continue to stand with these and other communities to fight this environment and racial justice crisis and put an end to the disproportionate racial impact of the deprivation of water services.”
Nelson added that the current dire situation in Jackson was predictable. “This latest water crisis in Jackson, Mississippi—home to the second-largest Black population in the United States—was foreseeable and is the inevitable consequence of both a water system and state leadership that has continuously failed its residents,” she said. “Just two years ago, Jackson’s drinking water was found to have the potential to host harmful bacteria and, in 2021, a major winter storm caused pipes to burst, resulting in residents being without water for a month.”
“Decades of inaction by the state to upgrade and invest in the Jackson water system and necessary infrastructure improvements have led local officials and residents to sound the alarm on this issue for years, including earlier in 2022 during another water crisis, to no avail.”
LaTosha Brown and Cliff Albright, Black Voters Matter co-founders, said they were glad that the water crisis in Jackson was getting attention from all over the country.
“At the root of this crisis is systemic racism, and the local and state governments’ intentional negligence to redirect infrastructure funds that could have helped solve this issue years ago,” they said in a Sept. 1 statement. “Jackson, which is 82.5% Black, is yet another example of a pattern of neglect that Black and Brown voters have faced across the South in which state and local governments ignore human rights and basic needs in our communities.”
“It is important to remember that this crisis is not an isolated event,” Brown and Albright continued. “At Black Voters Matter, we are committed to supporting our partners on the ground in Mississippi and are working to ensure resources are deployed to those in need as soon as possible.”
(Editor’s note: Black Voters Matter provided grant funds to the Mississippi Free Press this year to report on voting access and poll locations across the state.)
More Than Half Tanks Refilling Now
The City of Jackson on Thursday released an update on the progress at the O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant, explaining that more than half of the surface tanks are refilling.
“Many areas throughout Jackson now have some pressure; areas closer to the plant are experiencing almost normal pressure; areas further from the plant and at higher elevations are still experiencing low to no pressure,” the City reported.
“This pressure will improve as the tank levels increase; the total plant output has increased to 78 (pounds by square inch) PSI; the goal on the surface system is 87 PSI; there are still challenges to navigate as the intake water source changes chemistry again.”
“We have also begun the process of expediting some of the projects that were already being planned; these items each will contribute significantly to the stability of the OB Curtis plant,” it added. “The EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have also joined us on site today; the Joint Incident Command team continues to work collaboratively and is in close coordination.”
In a release on Sept. 2, 2022, the City of Jackson said that “the total plant output has increased to 80 PSI.”
“Six of the tanks on the surface system have reached stable levels, and the other tanks continue to make progress,” it added. “More areas throughout Jackson now have some pressure. Many are now experiencing normal pressure.”
“Areas further from the plant and at higher elevations may still be experiencing low to no pressure. This pressure will continue to improve as the tank levels increase.”