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‘It’s becoming normal’: Mom in Jackson speaks on water crisis

(NewsNation) — The city of Jackson, Mississippi, is facing yet another water crisis, this time caused by a winter storm that killed dozens in the northeast and left a swath of the country buried under snow.

In Jackson, where flooding in August pushed the city’s wastewater treatment plant to a breaking point, pipes froze Christmas Day and left residents such as Tekemia Bennett without water yet again.

“It’s almost like the Grinch just came and took it all away again,” Bennett said Wednesday on “CUOMO.” “The worst part is that it’s becoming a normal, when it shouldn’t be … normal for no water in this day and time.”

Mississippi State Rep. Ronnie Crudup said Wednesday on “NewsNation Live” that repairs are being made to the water system, but it won’t be an easy or quick fix.

“But we’re just hoping that we can get through the wintertime and the rest of the year without any more disturbances like this,” Crudup said.

Following partial collapse of the water system in August, the Environmental Protection Agency said in late October that the drinking water was finally safe to drink. Some trace the city’s water troubles back to the 1970s, and the city was under a boil advisory for a month before the August incident.

Bennett said the nearest shower for her and her four children is 20 miles away, and she’s been forced to defecate in a bag since she can’t flush the toilet. In describing the conditions, she said, “I’m gonna get raw with it because the world needs to know that this is a true struggle.”

“Is it fair that I’m having to live like this?” Bennett said. “No water is no joke.”

City officials have attributed the latest problem to “mystery” leaks that have been difficult to identify. Jackson Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba said city crews have found more than 20 leaks throughout the city, NewsNation affiliate WJTV reported.

Repairs are underway to the city’s water treatment facility, but major work is still needed to completely fix the system.

“I don’t want our residents to believe that those projects in and of themselves will lead to, you know, a more sustainable or resilient system. Right? They will contribute towards it, but it won’t reach us,” Lumumba told WJTV. “We won’t be able to drop a ‘mission accomplished’ banner. Just with those projects, we still need to weatherize our chemical room.”

Lumumba hopes the latest boil-water notice, issued Dec. 25, will be lifted by Saturday.

Despite the efforts by city and state officials, Bennett said enough isn’t being done.

“‘Invisible’ and ‘mystery’ is no good,” Bennett said of the city’s explanation of struggling to locate leaks. “I’m tired of hearing that.”

During a news conference Tuesday, Lumumba called the situation with the current water system a “worst case scenario,” WJTV reported. He warned the city will remain vulnerable until a long-term solution is found for water infrastructure throughout the city.

The water leaks are causing problems for businesses, too. A local bakery has been closed since Tuesday and is losing $7,000 a day, WJTV reported.

“We live and breathe by being able to serve healthy food in a clean environment. We need water to wash our hands. We need water to be able to clean things. We need water to be able to cook. The health department is very clear on their rules. If you do not have the ability to wash your hands, to flush the toilet and to run your dish machine, you shouldn’t open,” said Jeff Good with Magina Bene Restaurant Management Group.

“The real sad part is the loss of opportunity for those that work for us. The majority of our staff, 80 to 90% of our staff are hourly employees. They make money by coming to work and being on the clock.”