JACKSON, Mississippi — A boil water advisory was lifted Thursday in Mississippi’s capital after nearly seven weeks, Governor Tate Reeves and Jackson officials said.
“We have restored drinking water,” Reeves told a news conference.
But state health department official Jim Craig said concerns remained about copper and lead levels in Jackson’s water. Craig said people should continue to avoid using city water to prepare formula.
Emergency repairs are still underway after problems at Jackson’s main water treatment plant caused most customers to lose service for several days in late August and early September.
The problems began days after torrential rains fell in central Mississippi, affecting the quality of raw water entering Jackson’s treatment plants. This slowed down the treatment process, drained the water reservoirs and caused a sudden drop in pressure.
When the water pressure drops, it is possible for untreated groundwater to enter the water system through cracked pipes. Customers are therefore advised to boil water to kill potentially harmful bacteria.
But even before the downpour, officials said some water pumps had failed and a treatment plant was using standby pumps. Jackson had previously been on a month-long boil water advisory because the state health department found cloudy water that could make people sick.
The National Guard and volunteer groups have distributed millions of bottles of drinking water in Jackson since late August.
Jackson is the largest city in one of the poorest states in the United States. The city has a shrinking tax base due to white flight, which began about a decade after public schools were integrated in 1970. Jackson’s population is over 80 percent black, and about 25 percent its inhabitants live in poverty.
Like many American cities, Jackson struggles with aging infrastructure with cracking or collapsing water pipes. Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, a Democrat in a Republican-led state, said the city’s water problems stem from decades of deferred maintenance.
Some equipment froze at Jackson’s main water treatment plant during a cold snap in early 2020, leaving thousands of customers with dangerously low water pressure or no water at all. The National Guard participated in the distribution of drinking water. People collected water in buckets to flush the toilets. Similar issues occurred on a smaller scale earlier this year.
Jackson frequently has boil water advisories due to loss of pressure or other issues that can contaminate the water. Some of the warrants are only in place for a few days, while others last for weeks. Some only affect specific neighborhoods, usually due to broken pipes in the area. Others affect all customers of the water system.