FEMA director says it’s ‘too soon’ to say when Jackson will have clean water again

Residents of Jackson, Mississippi, still haven’t had widespread access to clean drinking water since Sunday, after massive rains and river flooding late last month compounded existing infrastructure problems in the area. one of two processing plants in the majority-black city.

Some officials said Saturday that service had been restored for most customers, but the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency warned Sunday that it was still “too early” to say when the city will have drinking water again.

“As you said, there’s been a lot of infrastructure damage that’s been there for many years,” Deanne Criswell told Dana Bash on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“The place where our focus right now from FEMA is being able to make sure that we can supply and support the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency by bringing in clean water, bottled water, by supporting their operations – but more importantly, by bringing in our federal partners who can truly understand what it will take to bring this plant back to full operational capability,” she said.

Criswell said she visited Jackson on Friday with Mitch Landrieu, director of White House infrastructure. The FEMA director spoke with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers about the assessments they are conducting and what it will take to make clean water widely available to the community. The boil water advisory is still in effect due to the fragile state of the water treatment facility.

“So it’s going to happen in phases, right? The focus right now is to make sure we can get out of bottled water. But also, we’re providing temporary measures to help increase the water pressure, so people can at least flush the toilets and use the taps,” Criswell said. “The long term and the medium term on how long it will take to actually make it safe to drink – I think we have a lot more to learn about what it will take to get this plant up and running.”

The city of around 150,000 does not have the financial means to solve its water crisis, due to the erosion of the tax base as the population dwindled amid the white drain that began a few years after the integration of public schools in the 1970s. Today, Jackson is over 80 percent black and 25 percent poor, meaning the water crisis has disproportionately affected low-income and black residents and businesses.

Jackson’s Democratic Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba has long blamed the collapse of the city’s infrastructure on climate change and inaction by the state legislature – a predominantly white, conservative body. Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves (right) blamed the problems on mismanagement by the city government.

But on Sunday, neither Criswell nor Lumumba chose to directly answer questions about who exactly is responsible for the water crisis facing the city. Instead, they stressed the focus should be on coming together to ensure Jackson residents have access to the clean water they need.

“I have to be optimistic. I have to make sure that we don’t let anyone off the hook and that we continue to see that in its conclusion,” Lumumba told Martha Raddatz on ABC’s “This Week.” “And its conclusion won’t be even after the water is restored this week and even after the ‘boil water’ advisory is lifted.”

“Its conclusion won’t happen until we can look the people of Jackson in the face and say, you know, we have a greater sense of reliability, that we believe in this system, and we believe in fairness. of this system and that parts of our city will not be disproportionately affected by this, week after week,” he said.


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