The city of Jackson, Mississippi is facing an indefinite water outage after the main water treatment plant failed on Monday. The city has linked the failure to complications from the flooding of the Pearl River, but Mississippi’s governor, Tate Reeves, has declared a state of emergency and said the cause is unknown.
180,000 people are without reliable drinking water and are being supplied with bottled water and tanker trucks. The city-run water treatment plant has been poorly operated and understaffed for years, according to the governor.
Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said that the Pearl River had “overtopped” the Ross Barnett Reservoir dam, causing water to rush into the city’s water treatment plant and overwhelm it.
“Do not drink the water,” Lumumba said at a press conference. “In too many cases, it is raw water from the reservoir being pushed through the pipes.”
The mayor urged residents to boil their water for three minutes before drinking it, and said that bottled water would be made available for those who need it.
The failure of the water treatment plant is just the latest blow to the city of Jackson, which has been inundated with floodwaters in recent days.
On Sunday, Governor Tate Reeves declared a state of emergency for the city, and said that National Guard troops had been deployed to help with rescue and recovery efforts.
At least three people have died as a result of the floods, and it is feared that the number could rise as search and rescue operations continue.
With the water treatment plant offline, it is unclear how long Jackson will be without running water. However, Mayor Lumumba said that the city could go without water “indefinitely.”
“We have to be prepared for the worst and hope for the best,” he said.
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