Jackson, the capital of the state of Mississippi, where 80% of the population is black and has a high poverty rate, has been experiencing a severe water crisis for years.
However, it has been plunged into an emergency for the past ten days. Flooding has disrupted the operation of a vital and aging water treatment plant.
The inhabitants sometimes only see a few drops of water or brown water. They are forced to queue for bottled water.
“It’s like living in a nightmare,” Erin Washington, a student at Jackson State University, told CNN.
In addition, city officials have warned not to drink the tap water, as the situation is critical.
“In the shower, make sure your mouth is not open because, again, you don’t want to swallow that water,” Jim Craig of Mississippi health officials said Wednesday.
The mayor’s office said Thursday that some areas of the city were beginning to regain pressure. The water treatment plant “made significant progress overnight and this morning,” the city said.
“Problems remain to be solved in the next few days, but the outlook is for progress today,” the town hall said with satisfaction.
It is clear that daily life has been disrupted. Schools have had to switch to distance learning, and businesses are paying a heavy price.
“Hotels and restaurants, already on the edge, can’t open or have to adapt, buying ice, water or soda,” Jeff Rent, president of the Jackson Chamber of Commerce, told CNN.
“People are on edge,” Sarah Friedler, manager of Brent’s Drugs restaurant, told the local Clarion Ledger newspaper.
They “choose not to come to Jackson to eat. They’re just going somewhere else, so they don’t have to worry about it,” she said.
The crisis facing Jackson residents is reminiscent of one of the worst health scandals in American history, the contaminated water scandal in Flint, Michigan, last decade.
In this industrial city, a change in the source of drinking water decided to save money, had permanently poisoned the network, exposing the inhabitants to lead poisoning.