‘Forget bottled water’: Jackson councilman says city should have prepared more for current crisis

Some residents have gone six days with little to no water pressure, Ward 6′s Aaron Banks says
Published: Dec. 29, 2022 at 9:20 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The tiny stream of water coming out of Catina Baldridge’s kitchen faucet may not look like much, but it beats what has had since last Friday: barely a drop.

Baldridge, who lives off McDowell Road, is one of many South Jackson residents dealing with little to no water pressure since Friday.

“We can’t take showers, we can’t cook. We can’t do normal things that we usually do,” Baldridge said.

Her neighbor, Carolyn Tedeton, said it’s even worse for residents who have children.

“Everybody has a low trickle. Well, that’s not right for us. We have kids out here we have to take care of, and that’s to the point of neglect,” Tedeton said. “If it was any other case, if CPS was called on the parent, their kid would be taken [because of lack of water]. We have to sit here and worry about if we can cook our food or if we can wash our tail or anything.”

Jackson City Councilman Aaron Banks represents Ward 6, where Catina and Carolyn live.

Banks said passing out bottled water to residents shouldn’t be the priority here.

“People appreciate bottled water. But you know, people in Ward 6 have been needing to flush the toilet since Friday, for the most part. And, you know, I wish that there would have been a little bit more preparation as far as having tankers, and having trucks ready to handle some of the most sanitary issues like being able to flush toilets,” Banks said. “Forget bottled water. We need to make sure we have [non-potable water] tankers. That’s nothing personal against anybody. That’s just me feeling the passion and the frustration of the people of Ward 6.”

While Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson has made a tanker for non-potable water available at the Mississippi State Fairgrounds for residents to use each weekday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Banks said the city needs more of those in affected areas around the city.

“Let’s think about this. The people that are affected the most are in South Jackson. They have to get their containers, come all the way to the fairgrounds, with buckets, some don’t have covers,” Banks said. “Then they got to drive all the way back. By the time they get back to their houses, they would have lost some of that water, just based on the conditions of the roads itself.”

After the February 2021 storm, Banks partnered with a few fellow pastors and committed to raising money for a tanker to be placed at Forest Hill High School because the city did not initially agree to fund that purchase.

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba issued a purchase order to take care of the tanker cost three days after Banks took the initiative, he said.

That wasn’t possible this year, however.

“At that point in time, it was like, you know, I was at a different place financially to make a commitment,” Banks said. “I’m not in that place now after the holidays.”

Lumumba said Wednesday they hope the water system’s pressure will stabilize so the water can be tested and deemed safe - with an ambitious goal of the citywide boil water alert lifted by New Year’s Eve - but residents aren’t as optimistic.

“I have no confidence in them at all. The mayor keeps getting on TV saying things are getting better. No, they’re not. They’re not. I bet if y’all could go to more people, there would be more people willing to talk just like me. It’s not getting better,” Baldridge said.

Author’s note: An earlier version of this story said Councilman Banks paid for the tanker and got reimbursed by the city. That has been changed to reflect a verbal commitment to pay from the councilman. The city did not reimburse him at all because Banks said he didn’t end up having to spend any money.

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