The water crisis in Mississippi’s capital city has become so dire that residents are being told to shower with cold water — and to keep their mouths shut while they do it.
The director of health protection for the Mississippi State Department of Health, Jim Craig, issued the recommendation on Wednesday for residents in Jackson, who have been living with little to no water flowing from their faucets for the last four days. He said that while it is still safe to bathe in the water, people should not “open your mouth while you’re in the shower.”
Craig also warned residents to keep their pets away from water if it has not yet been boiled for at least a minute, CNN reported.
Jackson residents have been boiling their water since the end of July, when workers noticed cloudy water at the city’s largest water treatment plant, O.B. Curtis. Around the same time, the primary pumps started to fail, prompting the facility to shift to smaller backup pumps. The issue came to a head earlier this week when flooding along the Pearl River caused the plant, which has been on the brink of failure for decades, to shut down.
In the days since, officials have scrambled to not only address the problem, but distribute bottled water to the 150,000 residents without safe drinking water.
On Wednesday, officials installed a temporary pump but many mechanical and technical issues remain. Staffing shortages have only further exacerbated city’s problems and Craig said there’s an “unacceptable” amount of sludge that has accumulated in the water basins over the years.
Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba told CNN he is hopeful that water can be restored before the week’s end, but that “there is a huge mountain to climb in order to achieve that.”
The crisis has forced many businesses in the area, a lot of them still struggling to recover in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, to close down. Students who have only just returned to school for the year have also reverted back to virtual learning.
On Tuesday, President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency in Mississippi as a result of Jackson’s water crisis.