By Kenny Stancil
"It's been two weeks and I know families with babies who don't have water. The city needs help. I'm grateful that my water drips so far that it flushes my toilet, but goddamn it. It just needs to be fixed at this point It just needs to be fixed. "
Jamario Townsend, a resident of Jackson, Mississippi, recently posted this on the city's Facebook page, The Daily Beast reported. Tens of thousands of people in Jackson have not had reliable access to running water for about two weeks and are still on a boiling water alarm as two winter storms in mid-February damaged the capital's outdated water system, prompting renewed calls for major investment in infrastructure improvement.
As the Washington Post reported on Monday evening:
On February 15, Mississippi residents woke to an ice sheet that is unusual in this part of the south. The ice has trapped many residents in their homes and made roads impassable. Days later, another winter storm hit the state, leaving the residents of central Mississippi without power and ultimately causing six deaths.
While power was eventually restored, the city of Jackson soon faced another problem: the lack of running water. On February 17, the system lost power and officials immediately issued a boiling water notification to 43,000 outlets, including homes and businesses.
Grocery store shelves were already empty thanks to the ice storm and bottled water was scarce. Local organizations have stepped up to deliver cases of bottled water to those in need.
Two weeks later, many residents still have no water. Officials say it is impossible to know how many homes are completely without water as some may have a trickle leaking from their pipes. Charles Williams, director of public works at Jackson, said Monday morning that the current pressure was 37 pounds per square inch – usually between 85 and 90.
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Nancy Palmer, an 82-year-old who lives in a senior citizen's apartment in northeast Jackson, has had no running water since February 16.
"I can't even describe how I feel," she told the Post. "I'm disgusted, desperate, everyone is here. It's like nobody cares. You're just here."
Enrika Williams, a professional cook who lives in South Jackson, told The Daily Beast that many people in the city, home to around 160,000 people and with a poverty rate of nearly 27%, cannot afford to get water in Bottles worth hundreds of dollars to buy for cooking, bathing, and laundry.
"Water is a basic requirement and has only brought a lot of frustration, anger and disappointment," she said. "We are not out of the forest yet. There are still many people without water."
The Post noted that “water problems are not new to residents of the city. Cooking notes are so common that a t-shirt store sells items that say, “Welcome to Boil Water Alert Mississippi”. "
However, the massive scale of the current crisis is unprecedented. All of Jackson is either without running water or subject to an indication of boiling water.
"When we have an outage, it's usually in a neighborhood, so people are used to running to their friends or aunt's house for a shower or refilling jugs," said Laurie Bertram Roberts, director of the Mississippi Reproductive Freedom Fund told The Daily Beast. “Usually you can grab the buckets and find a place to fill them, whatever. But what if it's the whole damn city? "
Like many residents who are losing patience, Enrika Williams told the news agency, “There was no plan we could see. The press conferences were unnecessary. If you don't know when it will come back, what is being done to help us? "
In 2014, the city approved a 1% increase in sales tax with the aim of improving its aging infrastructure. However, that levy only brings in $ 13 million in annual sales, a tiny fraction of the $ 2 billion Mayor Chokwe Lumumba the city needs – not just for the water system, but also for long-term repairs to the sewer system and roads.
"Even so, we are far from addressing these issues to any significant extent," Lumumba told the Post. The mayor asked the state government for help and said, "We need direct resources that can get into the city of Jackson."
Mississippi Republican governor Tate Reeves tweeted on February 23 that his government had received tankers "to provide Jackson with non-potable water to start the system and expedite repairs," and deployed the National Guard to help, adding, "We will restore clean." Water for the people of Jackson! "
Charles Williams, the city's public works director, told WAPT 16, a local ABC News affiliate, that officials are "trying to get a final schedule of when the water will be restored for all or our citizens."
"We know some have been restored and we're happy with them," he said. "But we are still very concerned about our residents in South Jackson. And other small pockets all over town. These residents continue to suffer without water."
Over the weekend, "fed up locals flooded the city's Facebook page asking for answers," The Daily Beast reported.
"We understand the frustration," said Charles Williams. "We understand the complaints and unfortunately they are right. We are doing everything we can. We ask for your patience, but we know that work will be done."
In a statement shared with The Daily Beast, Lumumba said, "Our systems were never designed to withstand days of ice storms and sub-zero temperatures combined with road conditions that prevented critical supplies from being delivered."
Reeves appears to agree, telling a news conference last Tuesday that Jackson's problems with the water equipment stem from "50 years of neglect and ignoring the challenges of the pipes and the system."
"We're not going to fix this 50-year delayed maintenance for the next six to eight hours," he added.
The comments from the Republican legislature could be interpreted as the tacit confirmation of the recently introduced WATER Act, which, as Common Dreams reported last week, aims to address the country's water crisis and ensure guaranteed access to clean and safe drinking water as a human right.
Charles Williams said it will happen again without proper investment. It's only a matter of time."
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Source: Shared Dreams
Pictured: City Council President Aaron Banks transports bottled water to a local distribution center in Jackson, Mississippi. (Photo: Screengrab from ABC 16 WAPT News)