Speed Reads

Mississippi infrastructure crisis

There is not enough water to flush toilets, brush teeth in Mississippi's capital

Jackson, the capital of Mississippi, has been without reliable tap water for going on a week and the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Deanne Criswell, says it's still too soon to know when potable water will be restored, CNN reports. The crisis, which escalated last Monday when pumps at the main water treatment plant failed during flooding, has left thousands of residents in the city of 180,000 without drinkable water, a safe way to brush their teeth, any way to cook, or even enough water to flush their toilets.

Officials have struggled to get systems up and working again at the water treatment plant, with the director of health protection at the Mississippi Department of Health explaining to reporters that it's "like fixing the airplane while you're still flying. You have to be very careful how you fix it so that you stay flying." Criswell further stressed that the priority is getting bottled water out to residents.

But "the water system in Jackson … has been failing for years," The Washington Post writes, noting that "even when water is flowing from the taps, residents struggle with intermittent boil-water advisories and high bills for water that is not always safe to drink."

Eighty-three percent of Jackson's residents are Black, and critics have cited the city's neglected infrastructure as a case of environmental racism. "We have not gone a month without having a 'boil water' notice or low to no water pressure in the last two years," Jackson councilman Aaron Banks told the BBC. "Unfortunately, that is something we have gotten used to as American citizens — nobody should be adapting to that type of quality of life."