Mississippi capital residents told crisis almost over, but don’t stop boiling water yet

RyersonClark/iStockBy BILL HUTCHINSON, ABC News

(JACKSON, Miss.) — Long-suffering residents of Mississippi’s capital city have been told by officials that a monthlong water crisis is almost over.

Tens of thousands of Jackson residents remain under a precautionary boil water notice, but city officials said that could soon end depending on the test results of surface water samples being sent to the state Health Department as early as Sunday or Monday.

“We feel confident that water service has been largely restored throughout Jackson. Any remaining incidents of low/no water pressure are likely localized meter issues or broken pipes,” city officials said in a statement issued late Saturday.

The city needs to submit 120 good surface-water samples from various locations in Jackson for two consecutive days “to determine when we can begin lifting the precautionary boil water notice” still affecting 43,000 surface water connections to homes, schools, businesses, churches and other structures.

The big problem has been getting the water pressure back up to a proper working level of 80 to 90 pounds per square inch, officials said. During the height of the crisis in February, water pressure across the city of more than 160,000 people plummeted to 37 pounds per square inch, resulting in water outages throughout the city and in neighboring Byram.

“Today was another good day with pressure getting up to 90psi. Tanks are continuing to fill,” reads the city’s statement.

In another sign that things are looking up, officials announced last week that they had received clearance to lift the precautionary boil water notice on its 16,000 well water connections primarily serving South Jackson and Byram.

The city’s water treatment plants were knocked offline when back-to-back winter storms swept through the South in mid-February bringing snow and below-freezing temperatures that caused widespread power outages across the region.

As the crisis unfolded, Jackson Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba called the emergency an “act of God” that exposed the city’s crumbling infrastructure. Lumumba and Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves agreed that the city’s water system had been neglected for decades.

In the latest update on the crisis, Jackson officials identified a list of “key needs” for residents, including one-gallon jugs of distilled drinking water, hand sanitizing wipes, utility assistance and debris removal.

“This is not the way we’re supposed to live,” Sheila Davis, who resides in an assisted living facility in Jackson, told ABC affiliate station WAPT-TV in Jackson.

Davis said she uses more than 50 bottles of water a day to cook, clean and bathe. She and other Jackson residents say they won’t use their tap water until the Department of Health is certain it’s no longer contaminated.

“I can’t wash my dishes in it,” Davis said. “I use bottled for everything because it’s not safe.”

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