On July 30, 2022, the city of Jackson, Mississippi, was placed on a boil-water advisory. This was due to a rise in water levels from the Pearl River. The city has been without drinkable water on and off since 2020. During this time, Jackson failed an Environmental Agency Protection inspection due to high amounts of bacteria and parasites in the water. Jackson, which has an 82% Black population, suffered from freezing conditions that caused the sewage pipes to burst. This led to the local water treatment facility being shut down.
In July of this year, the pumps at the treatment facility were damaged and the city has since had to rely on smaller pumps. The Federal Emergency Management Agency says the main focus has been to get bottles of water to the city. Consequently, the local college Jackson State University delayed the move-in date for its students. Additionally, K-12 schools, which were going to be in-person, have been moved online indefinitely.
Water pressure was restored within Jackson, Mississippi, over Labor day weekend. Despite the boil-water advisory being lifted, the water treatment infrastructure will remain fragile for some time. Additionally, many small repairs have been made to the pipes in the city yet some people have been without clean water for over a year.
The Governor of Mississippi, Tate Reeves, says the ongoing health crisis is an “immediate health threat.” There have been reports that the cause of the ongoing water crisis in Jackson, Mississippi is due to underfunding for infrastructure upgrades. There have been many attempts from political leaders in the city for more funding for the plumbing system.
In Aug. of 2021, President Biden referenced Jackson, Mississippi’s water system, in support of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act bill. The bill passed on Aug. 10, 2021. The state will receive $429 million in funding from the bill over the next five years. Some funds won’t reach Mississippi until 2023. Additionally, the funds were not allocated for Jackson, Miss. alone but rather the entire state.
The Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, estimates that the price tag for Jackson’s infrastructure could go into the billions. It was stated that there is another option to receive funding the repair. One includes using the $450 million received from the Congressional Covid Relief. The downside is that this program requires counties to match the Congressional Covid Relief and Jackson only has $25 million from the American Rescue Plan Act.
There have been many comparisons to the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan. One major reason was due to the majority Black populations in both cities. The city of Jackson has gradually decreased in the number of white people since the 1980s. In addition to this, about 30,000 people left Jackson in the 1990s. The population loss led to a reduction in the area’s income taxes and the water and sewage systems have paid the price.
The founder of Operation Good, Gino Womack, says that he notices that the surrounding cities with a white population do not have the same issues. He also states that the children in the area have become immune to the sewage in their water. He notes that they bathe, cook, and drink it. Despite all of this, Jackson, Mississippi, residents are still billed for water.