FEMA chief arrives in Jackson, Miss., to address water crisis

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National Guard members of Bravo Battery 1-104 from Forest, Miss., hand out cases of bottled water Friday to residences of Jackson, Miss. Jackson is experiencing its fifth day without reliable water service after the Pearl River flooded and caused the main water treatment facility to fail. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | <a href=License Photo” height=”532″ src=”https://cdnph.upi.com/svc/sv/upi/6581662231116/2022/1/876d902753398684749a65226ad05c7a/FEMA-arrives-as-water-pressure-returns-to-Jackson-Miss.jpg” title=”National Guard members of Bravo Battery 1-104 from Forest, Miss., hand out cases of bottled water Friday to residences of Jackson, Miss. Jackson is experiencing its fifth day without reliable water service after the Pearl River flooded and caused the main water treatment facility to fail. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo” width=”800″>

National Guard members of Bravo Battery 1-104 from Forest, Miss., hand out cases of bottled water Friday to residences of Jackson, Miss. Jackson is experiencing its fifth day without reliable water service after the Pearl River flooded and caused the main water treatment facility to fail. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 3 (UPI) — The head of the Federal Emergency Management Administration has arrived in Jackson, Miss., to assess emergency efforts following a mechanical collapse at the main water treatment facility that has kept the state’s largest city without reliable running water for nearly a week.

Meanwhile, many households were seeing at least some water pressure again Saturday after crews redirected water storage to the Suncrest tank away from the troubled O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Facility, which failed Monday.

However, other problems at the plant, including an ammonia leak discovered Saturday, kept officials wary about the challenges ahead.

An environmental specialist was called in to oversee the “burn-off of ammonia gas during repair of the leaking tank,” the Mississippi Department of Health tweeted Saturday.

FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell is charged with coordinating the federal response to the crisis after President Joe Biden signed a disaster declaration earlier in the week.

On Friday, she attended a briefing at the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency office in Pearl, and later attended a news conference with Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves and Stephen McCraney, the executive director of the state’s emergency management agency.

“What I saw here today is one team. One team of local, state and federal government,” she said, according to WAPT, the ABC affiliate in Jackson.

Response teams from Florida and Georgia traveled to the region to assist with repairs at the troubled water plant.

The city’s boil water notice remains in effect after warnings from state health officials who called the tap water “not safe to drink.”

“I’d even say it’s not safe to brush your teeth with — because we are not seeing adequate chlorination and an inability to consistently disinfect the water,” Mississippi state health officer Daniel Eden said earlier this week, according to NBC.

Torrential rains in the region led to intense flooding over the weekend that caused the failure of two central pumps at the treatment facility on Monday.

One backup pump was left standing to provide water to a city of nearly 200,000 people.

The plant had no other failsafe in place and was in a state of disrepair when the floodwaters overwhelmed its systems, resulting in little to no water pressure to households throughout the region.

Reeves declared a state of emergency and called in the National Guard to assist with emergency efforts, while the state’s Emergency Management Agency has since set up seven distribution centers to hand out bottled water to thousands of desperate residents who have been forced from flood-damaged homes.

On Monday, Reeves underscored the severity of the crisis.

“Until it is fixed, it means we do not have reliable running water at scale,” he said. “It means the city cannot produce enough water to fight fires, to reliably flush toilets and to meet other critical needs.”

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