Restaurants in Mississippi’s largest city are being bogged down by a water shortage that is forcing them to spend up to $800 a day on bottled water.
Nick Wallace, a chef at the Nissan Cafe in the Two Museums complex in Jackson: “I spend $800 a day on coke and water and get no help from Jackson.”
Meanwhile, another Jackson restaurant, Walker’s Dine-in, was forced to shell out $300 a day for water.
It comes after the city’s ailing OB Curtis was shut down by recent flooding, leaving 180,000 locals unable to drink tap water without boiling it.
Many can’t shower or flush their toilets due to low water pressure – and the city’s fire department also fear they won’t be able to fight blazes due to the shortage.
The city of 150,000 has been under a boil order for a month because the health department found cloudy water that could cause digestive problems. Long queues for limited supplies of bottled water have formed at the distribution points each day.
Gas station/grocery store owner Rajwinder Singh taps the 15 cases of drinking water he bought at a Kroger grocery store into his vehicle
Derek Emerson, co-owner of Walker’s Drive-In, said the water crisis “makes it impossible for us to do business in Jackson, Mississippi.”
Walker’s Drive-In has stocked up on bottles of drinking water and prepackaged tea to process its customers’ orders
Restaurant owner Derek Emerson said Tuesday that water issues “make it impossible for us to do business in Jackson, Mississippi.”
Emerson and his wife Jennifer own the upscale Walker’s Drive-In, and he said they’ve spent $300 a day on ice cream and bottled water for the past month.
“I love doing business in Jackson and I like the people of Jackson,” Emerson said. “I – I hate dealing with problems.”
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves declared a state of emergency for Jackson’s water system on Tuesday.
The state will seek to address problems by hiring contractors to work at the treatment plant, which has been running on reduced-capacity backup pumps after the main pumps failed “some time ago,” Reeves said.
The 80 percent black area has suffered from chronic underfunding for decades, and it is now feared it could cost up to $1 billion to fix the water problem.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden approved a request for a state of emergency for the state of Mississippi and directed his administration to increase federal aid to the region, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre tweeted late Tuesday.
Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said Jackson’s water system has been impacted by staff shortages and “decades of delayed maintenance.”
He said the influx of water from torrential rains changed the chemical composition needed for treatment, slowing the process of delivering water to customers.
Lumumba is a Democrat and was not invited to the Republican governor’s press conference Monday night.
In Mississippi, the Pearl River reached its third-highest crest on record at 36.7 feet in 2020, compounding problems
Though the two politicians are often at odds, Lumumba said Tuesday he is having productive discussions with the Department of Health and the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and is grateful for the state’s help.
Like many cities, Jackson faces water system problems that it cannot afford to fix. Its tax base has eroded in recent decades as its population has declined — the result of the predominantly white flight to the suburbs that began after the integration of public schools in 1970.
The city’s population is now more than 80% black, with around 25% of residents living in poverty.
The low water pressure left some people unable to shower or flush toilets, and officials said the low pressure raised concerns for firefighters.
Those with water flowing from the tap were instructed to boil it to kill bacteria that could make them sick.
The Jackson schools held online classes Tuesday and Wednesday, and some restaurants were closed.
Jackson State University set up makeshift restrooms for students, and Jackson State football coach Deion Sanders said the water crisis left his players without air conditioning or ice at their practice facility.
In a video posted to social media by one of his sons, Sanders – aka Coach Prime – said he wanted to take players to a hotel so they could shower.
“We’re going to find a place to practice, find a place that can accommodate everything that we need and want to be who we want to be, and that’s dominant,” Sanders said.
Hotels in Jackson are still open and currently have good water pressure, allowing them to continue operating as residents are hoping.
The problems at the water treatment plant came after the city appeared to largely avoid widespread flooding from a Pearl River swollen by days of heavy rain.
A house was flooded Monday, but the mayor said the water hadn’t risen as high as expected.
Previous forecasts indicated that about 100 to 150 buildings in the Jackson area were at risk of potential flooding.
Customers at Walker’s Drive In are served bottled drinking water and imported ice on Tuesday, August 30, 2022 in Jackson, Mississippi.
Pallets loaded with crates of water are unloaded at a Kroger grocery store in North Jackson, Mississippi, Tuesday
Flood water blanketed streets in some parts of the North Canton Circle neighborhood in Jackson, Mississippi on Monday
The National Weather Service said the Pearl River topped Monday just before the major flood level of 36 feet when Jackson flooded in 2020 after the river exceeded that level.
Jackson has two water treatment plants, and the larger one is near a reservoir that provides most of the city’s water supply. The reservoir also plays a role in flood control.
The mayor said Monday low water pressure could last for a few days, but on Tuesday he said some customers were regaining service.
“We’ve seen steady improvements in the system,” said Lumumba.
Jackson has long had problems with his water system. A cold snap in 2021 left a significant number of people without running water after pipes froze. Similar issues resurfaced on a smaller scale earlier this year.
Lumumba said last week that repairing Jackson’s water system could cost $200 million, but on Tuesday he said the cost could run into “potentially billions of dollars.”
Mississippi gets $75 million to address water issues under bipartisan infrastructure bill.
Jackson resident Bernard Smith said he filled containers with water Monday night in case his home lost service.
He bought bottled water on Tuesday and said he hopes Jackson is on the way to solving his water issues.
“Sometimes you have to go through the hardships to get back on the good ship,” Smith said.
Tracy Funches, assistant director of Hinds County Emergency Management Operations, right, and operations coordinator Luke Chennault wade through flood waters in northeast Jackson
Firefighters and recruits from the Jackson, Mississippi Fire Department carry cases of bottled water to residents’ vehicles