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Boil-water alert issued for Mississippi’s capital city

June 25, 2022 GMT

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Residents and businesses in Mississippi’s capital are under a citywide boil-water notice until further notice.

The alert was issued Friday because of water pressure issues at the O.B. Curtis Water Plant, city officials said in a news release. It affects all surface and well water customers.

Jackson has longstanding, expensive-to-fix problems with its aging water system, and the EPA issued a notice in January that the system violates the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. The order directed the city to outline a plan to “correct the significant deficiencies identified” in an EPA report within 45 days. It was not immediately known whether the city had complied.

Friday’s boil notice comes days after the city issued a water conservation advisory because of an anticipated high demand during the ongoing intense heat. The city says ongoing mechanical issues with filtration equipment at the plant, combined with higher than normal demand due to prolonged high temperatures, have led to low water pressure in the system.

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Once pressure drops below 65 psi, the city is required to issue a citywide notice because of the possibility that untreated groundwater can enter the systems through cracked pipes. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Mississippi Department of Health have been notified.

Customers are advised to boil their drinking water until adequate pressure is restored to the system. Water should be brought to a rolling boil for one minute for cooking or baking, making ice cubes, taking medication, brushing teeth, washing food, mixing baby formula or food, mixing juices or drinks feeding pets, washing dishes and all other consumption.

Like many older cities around the U.S., Jackson faces more water system problems than it can afford to fix. The city’s tax base has eroded over the past few decades as the population has decreased — the result of mostly white flight to suburbs that began after public schools integrated in 1970. The city’s population is now more than 80% Black, with about 25% of residents living in poverty.

After cold weather blanketed parts of the South last February, equipment froze in a Jackson water treatment plant. For weeks, thousands of people were left with no running water or water pressure that was dangerously low. The city ran distribution sites where people brought buckets to pick up water to bathe or flush toilets. The National Guard helped distribute cases of drinking water, and volunteers delivered bottled water to people without access to transportation.

In addition to water pressure, Jackson has also had water quality problems for years. Because of concerns about lead levels, the city has long told people to avoid using hot tap water for drinking or cooking and to only use filtered or bottled water for baby formula.

There’s no word on when the citywide boil order will be lifted.