When two winter storms struck the city of Jackson last year, it wasn’t the snow. It wasn’t the ice. It was the water.
Century-old pipes burst, leaving residents of Mississippi’s capital city without running water. Schools and businesses closed, and some residents went for a month without water.
The disaster brought the need for safe, clean water into clear focus, and last August, President Joe Biden pointed to the problem in a televised address: “Never again can we allow what happened in Flint, Michigan, and Jackson Mississippi. We can never let it happen again.”
More than 30 million Americans live where water systems have violated safety rules. That problem is even more acute in Mississippi, which is filled with small, often antiquated water systems. Of the state’s 1,200 public water systems, about 70% are rural systems serving 1,000 homes or less, most of which were built in the late 1960s or early 1970s.
Some communities provide no water at all, forcing residents to turn to well water, which often goes without testing.
When testing is done, it may detect heavy metals. In 2015, high levels of lead appeared in Jackson’s drinking water. Since then, two-thirds of all water samples have contained at least a trace amount of the metal.
Mississippi Spotlight* and Consumer Reports are partnering to test water systems across Mississippi with volunteers who will use a special testing kit to take samples that will then be analyzed in a lab for any heavy metals or PFAS. We will share individual results with volunteers once the testing is complete.
Tests of drinking water across the nation have also detected synthetic chemicals, including PFAs, which have been linked to a range of health woes.
Would you like to help us test the water in your community? Is there a story about water quality where you live that you would like to share with us?
Volunteer to be a water tester
Please get in touch through this form, hosted by our partners Consumer Reports. Your responses are secure as the form is secure, and only we and Consumer Reports will have access to your contributions.
Tell us about your water supply experiences
In addition to testing, we want to hear from readers who have a story to tell about their drinking water. If you have a story that one of our reporters should check out, please respond in this form.
This report was produced in partnership with the Community Foundation for Mississippi’s local news collaborative, which is independently funded in part by Microsoft Corp. The collaborative includes the Clarion Ledger, the Jackson Advocate, Jackson State University, Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting, Mississippi Public Broadcasting and Mississippi Today.