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Like 'Peanut Brittle': Mississippi Water Crisis Highlights Infrastructure Problems

Water for flushing toilets was being distributed at seven sites in Mississippi's capital city — more than 10 days after winter storms wreaked havoc on the city's water system because the system is still struggling to maintain consistent water pressure, authorities said.
Water for flushing toilets was being distributed at seven sites in Mississippi's capital city — more than 10 days after winter storms wreaked havoc on the city's water system because the system is still struggling to maintain consistent water pressure, authorities said.

Many residents of Jackson, Miss., remain without running water three weeks after a winter storm hit the city.

The water outages in Jackson began Feb. 15 as a winter storm swept across the state. The storm brought devastating, bitter cold to the South and hit the region's critical infrastructure hard--highlighting major vulnerabilities in the area's power grid and water system.

Some water treatment plants in the city couldn't operate in the freezing temperatures that lingered for days. Because plants were shut down for so long, water pressure in the city dropped.

As of March 3, service had been restored in some areas, but a boil water notice remained in effect for many residents, according to city officials.

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said March 1 in a Twitter post that the city has "made some strides" restoring water service, but more work needs to be done.

But the timeline of when full water service could be restored is unclear.

Jackson Public Works Director Charles Williams said the plants are back online, but the water pressure needs to be at a consistent rate for it to reach the homes farthest from the treatment plants.

In the meantime, city officials and the National Guard are distributing non-potable water to people. That water can be used to flush toilets, but can be used for little else.

In the meantime, residents such as Wayne Johnson are traveling through the city filling milk jugs and other containers with water. Johnson told NPR his elderly neighbor has been without water since Feb. 16.

He said, "She's elderly, she can't handle jugs of water so I'm catching water. Got coolers and jugs and everything else. I'm filling bathtubs up with water and everything else to flush and do what we can."

Lumumba said the water system's failure has only served to highlight issues that have existed for decades. He said the city needs state and federal funding to help replace 100-year-old pipes.

He said, "They have been described as peanut brittle when our crews jump into holes in order to repair them. Sometimes they'll repair one break, stay for a little while, and see another break happen mere yards away from the one that they just repaired."

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