FEMA chief: Too early to say when Jackson will have clean running water

FEMA Administrator Deanna Criswell on Sunday said it was too early to tell when Jackson, Miss., would once again have clean water following a failure at the state's main treatment facility. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI

Sept. 4 (UPI) — The head of the Federal Emergency Management Administration said Sunday that it was too early to tell when residents of Jackson, Miss., will have safe, running drinking water.

FEMA Administrator Deanna Criswell told CNN’sState of the Union” that the agency was placing a focus on ensuring that residents have access to bottled water in the wake of a mechanical collapse at the O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Facility that has kept the approximately 150,000 residents of Jackson without reliable running water for nearly a week.

“Right now, we’re providing temporary measures to increase the water pressure so people can at least flush their toilets and use the faucets,” Criswell said.

Jackson, the state’s largest city, has been under a boil-water advisory since July 30 due to a high “level of manganese combined with the use of lime at the O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant in nearby Ridgeland.

The plant’s main pumps were also severely damaged in late July with heavy rain and flooding in late August causing a chemical imbalance at the facility, which is the main water plant servicing Jackson.

“There has been a lot of infrastructure damage that has been present of many years,” Criswell said Sunday.

Many households in Jackson were seeing at least some water pressure again Saturday after crews redirected water storage to the Suncrest tank and away from O.B. Curtis.

In an appearance on ABC News’This Week,” Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba estimated that drinkable water approved by the health department is “days, not weeks, away,” but an “equitable water treatment facility is a much longer road ahead.”

“As I have always warned, even when the pressure’s restored, even when we are not under a boil water notice, it’s not a matter of if these systems will fail but when theses systems will fail,” Lumumba said.

He added that the crisis would not actually end until officials “can look the residents of Jackson in the face and say we have a greater sense of reliability — that we believe in this system, that we believe in the equity of this system and that certain portions of our city won’t be disproportionately affected by this.”


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