Water is loaded into vehicles during a water giveaway at New Hope Baptist Church in Jackson. The water giveaway was provided by the Lefleur’s Bluff Chapter of The Links, Inc. in partnership with the Mississippi Food Network. Credit: Vickie D. King/Mississippi Today

The state health department declared a public drinking water supply emergency for Jackson on Tuesday, the morning after Gov. Tate Reeves announced that the city’s treatment system had begun to fail.

The release listed the following reasons for the declaration:

• Insufficient number of certified operators at J.H. Fewell and O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plants
• Insufficient number of maintenance staff at all water treatment plants and to support the distribution system
• Failure of multiple raw water pumps at O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant
• Low levels of water in storage tank
• Low water pressure impacting proper sanitation and education opportunities

The statement also said that disinfection levels are not reliable enough to prevent the potential of disease-causing organisms in the drinking water, including E. Coli, cryptosporidium, and giardia.

As part of the declaration, the Mississippi State Health Department is ordering that City of Jackson employees “cooperate with state response teams and contractors deployed to augment current staffing and to take remediation actions deemed necessary by the State Incident Commander.”

In his announcement on Monday, Reeves said that the state was deploying health department staff to O.B. Curtis on Tuesday to evaluate the plant’s ability to produce water.

In a tweet Tuesday, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency instructed Jackson residents on what to do and not do during the current boil water notice. MEMA wrote not to drink the water, although neither MEMA nor MSDH have clarified since yesterday whether or not the water is safe to drink after boiling it.

Yesterday, State Health Officer Dr. Daniel Edney instructed residents to boil water for three minutes before using water to drink, brush teeth or cook.

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Alex Rozier, from New York City, is Mississippi Today’s data and environment reporter. His work has appeared in the Boston Globe, Open Secrets, and on NBC.com. In 2019, Alex was a grantee through the Pulitzer Center’s Connected Coastlines program, which supported his coverage around the impact of climate change on Mississippi fisheries.