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Black City, No Water

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In my recent podcast with Josiah Rector, we discussed the role of financial capital in undermining Michigan cities such as Detroit and Flint to the point that they were victims of poisonous water because no one cared what happened to a bunch of poor Black people. And now we see this happening in Jackson, Mississippi, a poor Black city in a racist right-wing state with a racist right-wing governor who basically doesn’t care and so the water system has collapsed and….whoops! Better keep your mouth closed while you shower!

As Mississippi’s capital city entered a fourth day on Thursday with little or no water flowing from faucets, authorities were scrambling to get a failing water treatment plant plagued by decades of deferred maintenance back online. The problem — which comes on top of a boil-water notice in effect for more than a month — has upended life in the city of roughly 150,000 residents, where schools were shuttered this week, businesses are forced to adapt and people have had to wait in long lines for bottled water they can use to drink, cook or brush their teeth

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Though Jackson has seen numerous water problems over the years, acute problems have cascaded since late July, when cloudy water was noticed at the city’s O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant. The state imposed a boil-water notice for Jackson, because the cloudiness carries higher chance that the water could contain disease-causing organisms.

Around the same time, the main pumps at O.B. Curtis — the city’s main treatment plant — were severely damaged, forcing the facility to operate on smaller backup pumps, Reeves said this week without elaborating on the damage. The city announced August 9 that the troubled pumps were being pulled offline. City officials and Reeves’ office have not responded to CNN’s requests for details about the damage and the causes.

Last week, the governor was warned that Jackson would soon fail to produce running water, Reeves said.

Then, flooding: Heavy rains last week pushed the Pearl River to overflow and flood some Jackson streets, cresting Monday.Intake water from a reservoir was impacted by the heavy rainfall, creating a chemical imbalance on the conventional treatment side of the plant, Craig said Wednesday. This affected particulate removal, causing that side of the plant to be temporarily shut down and resulting in a loss of water distribution pressure.

Even with the installation Wednesday of the temporary pump, substantial mechanical and electrical issues remain due to deferred maintenance, including various pumps and motors that must be replaced and sludge in basins that has accumulated to levels that are “not acceptable,” Craig said.

In short, a complete indifference to a poor Black city means a lack of infrastructure that can be easily overwhelmed a big storm (and when are there big storms in Mississippi!!!!) and–by magic–the city has no clean water. It’s systemic and it’s effectively intentional.

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