Jackson, Mississippi, home to 160,000 and Mississippi’s largest city, is under an emergency declaration after two of the capital city’s water treatment plants were determined to be failing and on the verge of being completely shut down.
Republican Governor Tate Reeves gave a press conference Monday evening, saying:
“The O.B. Curtis plant is not operating anywhere near full capacity. We may find out tomorrow it’s not operating at all. We’ll have better visibility on that when we get in there tomorrow.”
“Until it is fixed, it means we do not have reliable running water at scale. It means the city cannot produce enough water to fight fires, to reliably flush toilets, and to meet other critical needs.”
Flooding over the weekend brought attention to the infrastructure problems – one that has been a long time coming.
According to Mississippi Today, Governor Reeves was alerted last week that it is “a near certainty that Jackson would begin to fail to produce running water sometime in the next several weeks or months.”
“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.”
Tens of thousands of Jacksonians were left without clean water for weeks after a 2021 winter storm, exposing the lack of maintenance that had been endemic when pipes in the city burst. This led to allegations of mismanagement from Mississippi’s predominantly Republican legislature – and from Reeves – about the city’s African-American mayor, Chokwe Antar Lumumba.
A fight over the Jackson Airport by the state’s GOP pitted Mayor Lumumba against Gov. Reeves and his Lt. Governor Delbert Hoseman. For weeks, Jacksonians were left without water, and the state’s leaders balked at the proposed $1 billion price tag – leading to a battle of wills between the politicians over who controls the rights to the facility and its surrounding prime real estate.
Jackson Free Press detailed the years-long saga, detailing a surprising lack of urgency that Lumumba blamed on the Republican establishment.
Hoseman said Jackson is responsible for its own infrastructure costs saying: “The prime mover needs to be the city itself. It’s the city of Jackson,” the Mississippi Free Press reported. Hoseman fondly reminisced about Jackson’s last white mayor, Kane Ditto – blaming the following administrations (Black), for “letting the city go.”
“You remember during Kane Ditto’s administration, he did repair work on water and sewer. So what happened since then?”
It’s an allegation contradicted by Ditto’s successor, Harvey Johnson Jr., the city’s first Black mayor, who said that “During my administration, we spent over $200 million on water and sewer infrastructure improvements over 12 years,” as Johnson told the Mississippi Free Press in an interview this afternoon.
The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency has pledged assistance to the city and its residents:
“We will come up with a solution that will be great for the city of Jackson,” said Mississippi Emergency Management 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.
Gov. Reeves has not spoken to the mayor of his state’s largest city, nor did he invite Lumumba to the evening press conference.
The Department of Health will be working to get the O.B. Curtis water treatment plant back online, and State Health Officer Dr. Daniel Edney has instructed Jackson residents “to boil their water for three minutes before using it to drink, brush teeth, or cook.”
Jackson Public Schools will be switching to virtual learning indefinitely.
While Gov. Tate Reeves is playing partisan politics with Jackson’s duly elected mayor, tens of thousands of Mississippi residents are without clean and potable water.
It’s time to prioritize the health and safety of all Mississippians, not just those safely in the suburbs who voted for the GOP.
Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick
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