Commentary: Jackson, Mississippi, has a water crisis. Is there a permanent fix to it?

from dr James B Ewers Jr

You and I live in the greatest country in the world. We believe that. It is the land of the free and home of the brave.

I think that in America we take so many things for granted. Food, clothing, and shelter have always been cornerstones of the American lifestyle. Some just have it in abundance.

Countries around the world are struggling mightily to have these everyday necessities.

In our United States, we are not without our trials and challenges. For example, if you live on the west coast, you are vulnerable to wildfires. If you live on the Gulf Coast or in the Midwest, you will be exposed to hurricanes and tornadoes respectively.

Wherever we live, nature finds us. These natural events affect us all. We adapt our lifestyle to them and live our lives accordingly.

I know where we live, we prepare for hurricane season every year. Please note that I am quite familiar with the terms hurricane warning and hurricane watch.

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The state of Mississippi recently had a natural weather event that impacted the quality of life in the Mississippi capital. The Pearl River overflowed and its capital, Jackson, fell victim. The national news painted a dark and disturbing picture of the city with soul as it described what was happening there. People rarely had to leave their homes with their clothes on their backs.

The scene was sad and the residents lost a lot. Houses were flooded and valuable possessions were lost. The floods left thousands of residents unable to drink the water. Drinking water is essential to our existence, yet many Jackson residents have been denied this basic right. Voices at all levels have spoken out about this water issue. Everyone seems to agree that this water issue needs immediate attention and an overhaul.

The city has reportedly been under a boiling water recommendation since July 30. Last Monday, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said, “Today the tanks are full. The water pressure is solid.”

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He added, “Although there will be more bad days in the future, we have reached a point where the people of Jackson can have confidence that water is coming out of their faucet. The people of Jackson can be confident that the toilets can be flushed.”

I’m looking at the governor’s comments from the outside.

Is it a win because the toilets are flushing and the water is coming out of the taps? I didn’t see the words clean and safe in those comments. Do you have?

I think you want your water to be clean and safe. We can’t forget Flint, Michigan. The FEMA official seems to think so too. He believes it’s too early to say when all Jackson residents will have clean water to drink. FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell said, “The focus right now is to make sure we can get bottled water.”

Speaking on CNN, Gov. Reeves said, “There was a lot of infrastructure damage that has been there for many years.”

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Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba agrees. He said: “As I’ve always warned, even when the pressure is restored, the issue isn’t if those systems fail, it’s when those systems fail.”

Comments from both elected officials suggest they see the issue differently.

This problem will be in the foreground for a while. The citizens there must not let it fall off the radar screen. Politics instead of humanity has come into play. The mayor is a Democrat and the governor is a Republican. Put politics aside and give the people what they want.

What they want is clean drinking water.

James B. Ewers Jr., Ed.D., is a former tennis champion at Atkins High School in Winston-Salem and played collegiate tennis at Johnson C. Smith University, where he was a conference-only player for four years. He is a retired university administrator. He can be reached at [email protected]

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