Mississippi Governor Declares State of Emergency, Tells Residents Not to Drink Water

Mississippi Governor Declares State of Emergency, Tells Residents Not to Drink Water
Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves, here speaking at the White House in September 2020, is lobbying lawmakers to eliminate the state’s income tax in 2023. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)
Jack Phillips

The governor of Mississippi declared a state of emergency for Jackson, the state capital, after a water treatment plant failed, and urged residents not to drink the water.

"Until it is fixed, it means we do not have reliable running water at scale. It means the city cannot produce enough water to fight fires, to reliably flush toilets, and to meet other critical needs," Gov. Tate Reeves said in reference to the emergency over the treatment plant.

“It will take time for that to come to fruition. But we are here in times of crisis, for anyone in the state who needs it,” added Reeves, a Republican. “That’s my responsibility as governor, and it is what everyone in my administration is committed to ensuring.”

Other than declaring (pdf) an emergency, Reeves also activated the Mississippi National Guard to support the city, according to an executive order (pdf).

The governor said state officials on Tuesday were to establish an incident command center at the O.B. Curtis Water Plant, which had been operating with smaller backup pumps after the facility's main pumps were severely damaged.

Illustrating the problem, Mississippi's top health official, Dr. Dan Edney, said water in Jackson "is not safe to drink, and I’d even say it’s not safe to brush your teeth with," reported local media.

President Joe Biden has been told about Jackson’s flooding and water problems, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre wrote Tuesday on her Twitter page.

“FEMA is working closely with the state officials to identify needs, and the EPA is coordinating with industry partners to expedite delivery of critical treatment equipment for emergency repairs at the City of Jackson water treatment facilities,” she wrote on Twitter.

Reeves said he learned on Friday that it was only a matter of time before the plant would fail to produce running water after years of poor operations and maintenance.

"Unfortunately, that failure appears to have begun," he said, noting that state officials were working to fix the plant.

Jackson Public Schools were closed on Tuesday as classes were moved online. Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, a Democrat, declared a water system emergency on Monday, saying the issue was caused by complications from recent Pearl River flooding.

Reeves also declared an emergency over floods during the past weekend.

"The state of Mississippi is as prepared as possible for this flooding. My administration, including MEMA, is monitoring this situation closely, and actively working to respond as quickly as possible to ongoing developments with flooding," Reeves said in a statement.

Reuters contributed to this report.
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