Biden declares emergency over Mississippi water crisis

by Sara Floyd Hello

 White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre announced late Tuesday night that President Joe Biden had approved an emergency declaration for the Jackson water crisis in the State of Mississippi and to supplement the state’s response ordered Federal assistance.

Late Tuesday, The White House said in a statement that “Emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, for a period of 90 days will be provided at 75 percent Federal funding”.

Additionally, the White House said, The Biden administration also authorized the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, to coordinate all disaster relief efforts in the state. 

On Tuesday to help distribute water to tens of thousands of Jackson residents after a long-troubled treatment plant broke down Mississippi activated its National Guard, without safe running water possibly for days leaving most of the state capital.

For Jackson and surrounding communities Governor Tate Reeves declared a state of emergency, warning the area’s 180,000 people to avoid drinking tap water. To assist in efforts to bring relief to the city he also called up the state National Guard, which was battered by record rainfall and flooding over the weekend.

Tankers distributed non-potable water and bottled drinking water was distributed at several sites, said by The city. 

The state emergency management director Stephen McCraney told reporters on Tuesday that the state trucked in 10 tractor-trailers of water and was expecting another 108 trucks in the coming days.

On Monday into the understaffed and poorly maintained O.B. Curtis treatment plant breakdown occurred when floodwaters seeped. At 40% capacity on Tuesday an emergency team had the plant working, Jim Craign senior state health officer said, and a temporary pump was expected to be installed on Wednesday and increase capacity further. 

To guarantee service citywide the system was still short of sufficient water pressure. They could not estimate how many homes were cut off, the officials said.

For businesses the shutdown created havoc, and  as they had done during the coronavirus pandemic Jackson public schools with nearly 21,000 students, were forced to move classes online.

In a retail parking lot supermarket shelves were stripped of bottled water, and police in a cruiser alerted people when supplies ran out at one distribution site. On Wednesday, starting at 5 a.m. volunteers apologized to people when they had no more water to give by urging them to return.

“It’s a hurtful feeling when you don’t have any water, especially when you’ve got new-born babies,” A mother of three, Monica Lashay Bass, said from her car after queuing up for her allotment of bottled water. About their water supply, people in Jackson have long complained.

According to the Mississippi Today, in February 2021 a pair of winter storms caused most residents in Jackson to briefly lose running water, and the U.S. The Environmental Protection Agency a year ago issued an emergency order saying the water supply could contain E. Coli. 

In the city’s water supply customers were told of high lead levels caused by recurring faulty water treatment techniques in 2016.

On Tuesday at a News Conference Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba welcomed the state aid but his comments further exposed a rift between the Republican state officials and the Democratic administration of a city that is more than 80% African-American.

From years of city mismanagement the governor has alleged the water treatment plant suffered, while from efforts to maintain and update the plant the mayor accused the state of being absent.

Lumumba said that “We’ve been going it alone for the better part of two years”. “And now we all are very excited to finally welcome the state to the table and all the valuable resources that they bring.”

By Tuesday afternoon, each side had been offered differing accounts of what happened, though they came to agree on significant facts. 

The governor, who previously blamed pump failures, affirmed what the mayor had said on Tuesday: that floodwaters entered the treatment plant, altering the chemistry of the water, rendering the existing treatment inadequate, and forcing a shutdown. 

Under a boil water policy the city had been under notice for the past month even before the crisis due to “elevated turbidity levels,” which makes the water appear cloudy.

The White House on Tuesday said that President Joe Biden had been briefed on the situation, and administration officials were in contact with state and local officials, including Lumumba.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Twitter that Federal agencies were assisting state officials to identify needs and to deliver equipment needed for emergency repairs.


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Created on Oct 11th 2022 01:27. Viewed 25 times.


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