News Articles

Jackson, Miss., in water emergency, Baptists ready to respond

Firefighters and recruits for the Jackson, Miss., Fire Department carry cases of bottled water to residents vehicles, Aug. 18, 2022, as part of the city's response to longstanding water system problems. On Monday, Aug. 29, 2022, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said he's declaring a state of emergency after excessive rainfall worsened problems in one of Jackson’s already troubled water-treatment plants. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said Monday night (Aug. 29) that he is declaring a state of emergency after excessive rainfall exacerbated problems in one of Jackson’s water-treatment plants and caused low water pressure through much of the capital city.

The low pressure raised concerns about firefighting and about people’s ability to take showers or flush toilets. A swollen Pearl River flooded streets and at least one home in Jackson on Monday, days after storms dumped heavy rain, but water levels were starting to recede.

Reeves said that on Tuesday the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency will start distributing both drinking water and non-potable water in the city of 150,000 residents, and the National Guard will be called in to help.

Hubert Yates, director of disaster relief for Mississippi Baptists, said the state has largely taken over the water distribution efforts by declaring a state of emergency and calling in the National Guard. But he added that Mississippi Baptists remain on standby to help the state with water distribution if requested.

State convention staff remains in “assessment mode,” Yates said. Staff members will meet with local churches Tuesday afternoon (Aug. 30) to determine how they can help.

Shawn Parker, executive director for the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, said the state convention’s office, located in Jackson, will be closed through at least this Thursday (Sept. 1) due to a lack of usable water.

He said there is a “strong likelihood,” that churches in Jackson will not be able to meet in their buildings this upcoming Sunday.

The governor said he understands people in Jackson don’t want to have water system problems.

“I get it. I live in the city. It’s not news that I want to hear,” Reeves said. “But we are going to be there for you.”

The National Weather Service said the Pearl River had crested at about 35.4 feet. That is short of the major flood stage level of 36 feet.

There are two water-treatment plants in Jackson, and the larger one is near a reservoir that provides most of the city’s water supply. The reservoir also has a role in flood control.

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said flooding has created additional problems at the treatment plant, and low water pressure could last a few days.

“What I liken it to is if you were drinking out of a Styrofoam cup, someone puts a hole in the bottom of it, you’re steady trying to fill it while it’s steady running out at the bottom,” Lumumba said.

The city has had a longstanding problem with its water system.

A cold snap in 2021 left a significant number of people without running water after pipes froze. Similar problems happened again early this year, on a smaller scale. The city has been under a boil-water notice since late July because tests found a cloudy quality to the water that could lead to health problems.

Despite the recent flooding, Lumumba said the water did not rise as high as expected. Earlier projections showed about 100 to 150 buildings in the Jackson area faced the possibility of flooding.

“We thank the Lord most of all for sparing so many of our residents,” Lumumba said.

Parker asked fellow Southern Baptists to pray for the state leaders, for Jackson residents and for the local churches during this crisis.

“The situation has created a serious crisis across the city, and there is an immediate and urgent need for clean water for Jackson residents,” Parker said. “I know that churches are going to pull together to help meet that need.”

“Even though they can’t meet, I don’t think this is going to hamper churches’ ability to minister to the community. I think it’s going to give the churches a great opportunity to minister in their various communities and be able to share the love of Christ and the Gospel in a meaningful and tangible way.”

From The Associated Press. May not be republished. BP staff writer Timothy Cockes contributed to this report.