Weeks after Mississippi winter storms, some residents still don't have water

Justin Vicory, Mississippi Clarion Ledger
·3 min read

JACKSON, Miss. – Two weeks into a water crisis in Jackson, Mississippi, after a series of winter storms, city officials say they do not know how many residents are still without water or when water will be restored.

Public Works Director Charles Williams said Tuesday that there are still pockets of homes in south Jackson's high-elevation areas without water, but he could not share a total number of outages.

He said water pressure at the city's treatment plant was gradually being restored, but a firm date for restoration of the system remains elusive.

For more than two weeks, residents in the city of 160,000 have been warned to boil any water that does come out of kitchen taps before using it.

Charles Ellison, W-10 crew member for the city of Jackson Water Maintenance Department, clamps off a broken water main on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021 in Jackson, Miss. Water Maintenance Department crews are working throughout the city to fix breaks to help get water restored to residents after the recent winter storms that hit the area.
Charles Ellison, W-10 crew member for the city of Jackson Water Maintenance Department, clamps off a broken water main on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021 in Jackson, Miss. Water Maintenance Department crews are working throughout the city to fix breaks to help get water restored to residents after the recent winter storms that hit the area.

Williams had said he was hopeful the system would be up to speed by Feb. 26, the weekend after the city first reported a water shortage on Feb. 17.

Instead, he said the prolonged freezing temperatures from winter storm systems crippled a system unequipped to deal with the temperature drop.

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Mississippi Army National Guard Sgt. Chase Toussaint, right, and Staff Sgt. Matthew Riley, both with the Maneuver Area Training Equipment Site of Camp Shelby, fill 5-gallon water drums with non-potable water, Monday, March 1, 2021, at a Jackson, Miss., water distribution site on the New Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church parking lot.
Mississippi Army National Guard Sgt. Chase Toussaint, right, and Staff Sgt. Matthew Riley, both with the Maneuver Area Training Equipment Site of Camp Shelby, fill 5-gallon water drums with non-potable water, Monday, March 1, 2021, at a Jackson, Miss., water distribution site on the New Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church parking lot.

More than 100 water breaks reported

The system is still not putting out enough water pressure to service its more than 43,000 customers. That has been complicated by water main breaks across the city that have leaked water into city streets and yards. Since the city first reported a water shortage, more than 100 water breaks have been reported. As of Monday night, crews had completed 53 repairs, he said.

Williams said Tuesday that it's possible a large water main break that has not been reported is also siphoning water from the city's water supply.

"A hard number is difficult to track," Williams said. "We would have to go door-to-door to know precisely where all the outages are."

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Jackson city engineer Charles Williams, with the Public Works Department, addresses the water issues within the city and when water can hopefully be restored to all residents during the weekly press conference at city hall in Jackson, Miss., Monday, Feb., 22, 2021.
Jackson city engineer Charles Williams, with the Public Works Department, addresses the water issues within the city and when water can hopefully be restored to all residents during the weekly press conference at city hall in Jackson, Miss., Monday, Feb., 22, 2021.

Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba has also been been hesitant to give a firm date for recovery of the water system.

The city has been tracking outages through reports from residents and its 311 hotline. The mayor's spokeswoman, Michelle Atoa said that as of Tuesday afternoon the hotline had received more than 1,500 water outage calls since Feb. 15, but she was unable to provide a hard number of residence outages or an estimate.

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The mayor's office said in an email that it had crews out Tuesday in south Jackson neighborhoods and in higher elevated areas of the city where residents are still experiencing outages. The crews are testing pressure levels and releasing trapped air from hydrants that may be impeding flow.

Seven distribution sites for non-potable water remain open across the city, and the city is also delivering bottled water to elderly and homebound residents.

Contributing: Jeff Martin and Leah Willingham, The Associated Press

Follow reporter Justin Vicory on Twitter: @justinvicory

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This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Jackson, Mississippi, water crisis: City unsure how many affected