JACKSON, Miss. (NEXSTAR) — President Biden approved an emergency declaration request for Mississippi Tuesday as its capital city continues to wade through a water crisis.
Thousands of homes and businesses in Jackson have little or no safe drinking water, following weeks of warnings to boil it before drinking. Now, FEMA is on the ground.
“To see what their needs are,” said Gracia Szczech, the FEMA administrator over Region 4.
Szczech said that includes help with bottled water distribution.
“We would reimburse that, including the manpower, the emergency protective measures that are involved in all of that,” she said.
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Szczech said FEMA can also assist with makeshift repairs to the city’s main water treatment facility, after recent flooding slowed the process of pushing water out to customers.
“Help support the state provide those immediate services to the citizens of Jackson,” she said.
But Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said his city faces water system problems, like pump failures and short staffing, it can’t afford to fix.
“This is a set of accumulated problems based on deferred maintenance that has not taken place over decades,” Lumumba said.
The EPA recently announced nearly $75 million from the bipartisan infrastructure law would go to Mississippi and urged officials to prioritize low-income communities and communities of color. Jackson is now more than 80 percent Black with about a quarter of its residents living in poverty.
For now, local, state and federal officials can’t say when the capital city will have clean drinking water on tap again.