As Mississippi capital endures fourth day without water, aid trickles in

·2 min read
As Mississippi capital endures fourth day without water, aid trickles in

By Eric Cox and Carlos Barria

JACKSON, Miss. (Reuters) -Seven new distribution sites opened in Mississippi's state capital on Thursday to dispense bottled water to people who have been without clean tap water since the city's long-troubled treatment plant failed four days ago.

While residents lined up at distribution sites and grocery stores in Jackson for bottled water, the city said "significant gains" had been made overnight in repairing the O.B. Curtis Water Plant. Complications from recent floodwaters knocked the plant offline on Monday night.

"There are some challenges remaining to navigate over the next few days, but the outlook for today is currently continued progress," the city said in a statement. It said limited water pressure had returned to some areas.

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves said 600 members of the National Guard would be deployed to the new water distribution sites through the city and surrounding area of 180,000 affected people.

"To everyone in the city, I know that you are dealing with a profoundly unfair situation. It's frustrating. It's wrong. It needs to be fixed," Reeves said during a news conference.

The crisis has hobbled Jackson. Many stores and restaurants have shut, while the public school system and Jackson State University have been forced to move classes online.

"I have me and six kids here. I have to constantly remind them, 'Do not brush your teeth with that water, do not wash your face with that water,'" said Denika Samuel, who was at home helping her children with remote schooling.

"Me as a parent, I'm going to do whatever it takes for us to survive during this water crisis."

Since the plant failed on Monday, crews have raced to install a temporary pump and make repairs and adjustments to existing equipment.

President Joe Biden's administration approved an emergency declaration late on Tuesday to free up federal assistance, while the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Environmental Protection Agency had been sent to Jackson to assist.

The White House also said legislation it supported has made millions of federal dollars available for state and city water projects.

"We've offered every single thing available to Mississippi. The governor has to act," Biden told reporters at the White House late on Thursday. "There's money to deal with this problem. We've given them EPA. We've given them everything there is to offer."

(Additional reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Chicago, Rich McKay in Atlanta and Daniel Trotta in Carlsbad, Calif.; editing by Deepa Babington, Robert Birsel)