Jackson, Mississippi, water scarcity crisis may cost billions of dollars to solve: Mayor

Staffing shortages, system problems and multiple equipment failures have led to a crisis where residents of Jackson, Mississippi have lost running water for an indefinite period, the mayor of Jackson said Tuesday, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, during a press conference.

Lumumba awarded the city water crisis to a lack of maintenance over the past decades, adding that it will cost billions of dollars to fix the problem.

“This is an accumulated set of issues based on deferred maintenance that hasn’t happened in decades,” Lumumba said.

Lumumba estimated that it would cost at least $1 billion to repair the water distribution system and billions more to fix the problem.

“The people of Jackson deserve a reliable system, and we look forward to a coalition of the willing who will join us in the fight to improve this system that has failed for decades,” Lumumba said.

At least 180,000 people will go without reliable drinking water in Jackson indefinitely after pumps at the main water treatment plant failed this week, officials said.

A major pump at Jackson’s OB Curtis water treatment plant was damaged, forcing the city to use backup pumps, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves said at a press conference Monday night.

Reeves declared a state of emergency on Tuesday and activated the state’s National Guard to help officials deal with the ongoing water emergency.

PHOTO: A firefighter puts crates of bottled water in a resident's SUV at the fire station as part of the city's response to the longstanding water system problem in Jackson, Miss., 18 August 2022.

A firefighter puts crates of bottled water into a resident’s SUV at the fire station as part of the city’s response to the longstanding water system problem in Jackson, Mississippi, August 18, 2022 .

Rogelio V. Solis/AP

“The state is mobilizing enormous resources to protect the people of our capital,” Reeves told the conference.

Residents will not have reliable running water in the state capital until the problem is resolved, officials said.

Reeves said the water shortage will make it harder for Jackson to produce enough water to fight fires, flush toilets and other basic needs.

Residents queued on city roads and highways to get to water distribution sites.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Mississippi hasn’t officially asked the federal government to help bring in water, but is willing to help “in any way.” possible ways” when this request is made.

“We are ready and look forward to further assistance as soon as we receive an official request from the state,” she said on Air Force One Tuesday.

Authorities are warning residents of the town not to drink the water as it is raw water from the reservoirs being pushed through the pipes.

PHOTO: A portion of Highway 489 was washed away by flooding in Newton County near Marrow Road, Mississippi, in a photo released by Highway Safety Patrol, August 24, 2022.

A portion of Highway 489 washed away by floodwaters in Newton County near Marrow Road, Mississippi, in a photo released by Highway Safety Patrol, August 24, 2022.

Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol via AFP/Getty Images

Jackson has been under a boil water advisory since July 29.

In February 2021, freezing temperatures caused water and electricity cuts in Jackson.

Lumumba told ABC News Live Prime on Tuesday that Jackson not only needs a system that is sustainable, but also one that is fair.

“We are suffering disproportionately in the southern part of our city,” he said. “Some of the poorer parts of our city are feeling the brunt of this challenge more consistently and worse than the rest of our city.”

A day after news broke of the current water crisis, Jackson’s director of public works, Marlin King, was reassigned to another role, Lumumba said.

King now serves as deputy director of public works, while former director of planning and development Jordan Hillman will fill King’s former position, according to ABC News affiliate Jackson. WAP.

ABC News’ Kayna Whitworth, Darren Reynolds and Emily Shapiro contributed to this report.

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