By BILL HUTCHINSON, ABC News
(JACKSON, Miss.) — The governor of Mississippi said he’s dispatching the National Guard and more tanker trucks to the state’s capital city to help bring an end to a water crisis that emerged following severe winter storms that crippled the community’s aging infrastructure.
Many residents of Jackson, a city of more than 160,000 people, have been struggling for over a week to secure enough water to handle basic needs, officials said.
As he waited in line at a local high school to get water from a tanker truck, Alfred Anderson Jr. summed up the feelings that he said many Jackson taxpayers have: “This is pitiful and a shame.”
“We pay all this money … and we have got to come out here, most of these people, and wait on to try to get stuff to flush your toilets and, you know, do your hygiene stuff and whatever,” Anderson told ABC affiliate station WAPT in Jackson.
Casandra Woody, another Jackson resident waiting in the same line for water, said the situation “is sad.”
“I’m just fed up,” Woody told WAPT as she watched residents fill up as many containers that could fit in their vehicles.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said help is on the way to the struggling residents of Jackson, where Reeves happens to live.
“We secured tankers tonight to provide non-potable water for Jackson to jumpstart the system and accelerate the fix,” Reeves said in a Tuesday night Twitter post. “I have also activated the National Guard to complete the mission, and they will arrive early tomorrow (Wednesday). We will restore clean water for the people of Jackson!”
Reeves noted that Jackson is one of many Mississippi cities still recovering from electrical and water emergencies.
Charles Williams, the city’s director of public works, told the Jackson City Council on Tuesday that water should be fully restored by the end of this week. But Williams said that as water pressure has been gradually increased a new problem has arisen — busted water mains across the community. He said in recent days, city work crews have responded to fix at least 20 water main breaks.
“We had to buy some equipment in order to get where we are right now,” Williams said. “A lot of our equipment froze up because we could not get above 32 (degrees).”
The city’s water treatment plant was knocked offline when back-to-back winter storms swept through the South last week bringing snow and below-freezing temperatures causing widespread power outages.
Williams said that at one point last week, pressure in the city’s water system fell to 32 pounds per square inch. On Tuesday, he said the water pressure in the system was up to 67 PSI and that he hopes workers can get the pressure up to 80 to 85 PSI by the end of Wednesday.
Residents have been asked to boil their water before drinking and the city is establishing more locations where residents can go to get clean water.
Jackson Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba has been the target of criticism from his constituents and city council members for his handling of the water crisis and for not getting the state moving fast enough to help fix the situation.
But Lumumba said the crisis was an “act of God” that exposed the city’s crumbling infrastructure that he said has been neglected for decades.
Reeves agreed, saying at a news conference on Tuesday that the challenges to Jackson’s water system “were born over literally 30, 40, 50 years of negligence and ignoring the challenges of the pipes and the system.”
“That 50 years of deferred maintenance is not something that we’re going to fix in the next six to eight hours,” Reeves said.
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