The Mississippi State Health Department is now testing Jackson water to verify that it is safe for human consumption. Water must meet standards for 48 hours before the city will be released from a boil-water alert.
Jackson has been under the boil-water notice since Monday as city water lines began to burst after sustained subfreezing temperatures over the weekend. More than 130 water line ruptures were discovered throughout the week as weather warmed and ice thawed.
Gov. Haley Barbour declared a state of emergency on Monday. Johnson has asked residents to boil as well as conserve water. Most public schools and state offices are still closed. Low water pressure causes sanitary issues in buildings and also poses a fire hazard. Some businesses and the state Capitol stayed open with portable restrooms and hand sanitizer. Water pressure has returned to most city buildings, enabling office restrooms to function.
Water pressure was normal this morning, paving the way for testing, Chris Mims said this morning in a Clarion-Ledger interview.
Mayor Harvey Johnson said Monday that $100 million has been invested in the city’s water system infrastructure over the past 12 years. According to a 1997 study, upgrading the system would take $300 million. A new study needs to be done, he said.
Johnson said the water crisis is solely due to the weather.
According to an unscientific Mississippi Business Journal web poll, 66 percent of voters believe the main cause of the Jackson water crisis was due to aging pipes and a lack of water system upgrades as opposed to the weather.
Former state representative and long-time Jackson attorney John R. Reeves said city officials talked about a bond issue to upgrade aging water infrastructure 20 years ago under Mayor Kane Ditto, but talk faded as the weather got warmer and a series of mild winters followed.
Reeves has worked in downtown Jackson for almost 30 years. His law office has had normal water pressure all week long. Downtown Jackson has made great strides recently with new developments, but the broken water mains just add to the overall negative image that the city has, he said.
Reeves believes the city ought to seek state assistance for water system repairs “because state government occupies almost half of downtown Jackson and pays no taxes.”
“Taxpayers like me are drowning in taxes,” Reeves said. Raising city taxes will only “drive people off more than they already have… We’re over-taxed. We can’t take it anymore.”