‘We’re living in a nightmare’: Jackson college students take online classes, leave campus amid city’s ongoing water crisis

Jackson has been without reliable water service since Monday, and heavy rains and severe flooding have started to cripple an already-failed water treatment plant. About 150,000 residents are forced to buy water or depend on taps. inefficient system With businesses and schools closed, bottled water collection points for drinking, cooking and brushing your teeth were closed.

“We’re kind of living in a nightmare right now,” said 19-year-old Erin Washington, a sophomore. “We can’t use the shower and the toilet can’t flush,” she said.

Washington said the campus already had low water pressure, toilets didn’t flush on Sunday, and by the next day students had no access to running water. she added.

On Wednesday, the water supply was completely cut off, and Washington said it was the “last straw” for her. She has booked a flight back to Chicago in the afternoon and is waiting to hear from university officials about whether she will return to in-person classes next week.

Deion Saunders, the college’s head football coach, also said the college’s football program “crisis mode.”

University officials have rushed to prepare as the 2,000 students living on campus continue to experience low water pressure, university president Thomas K. Hudson told CNN Friday.

The university switched to virtual learning on Monday. This is a familiar shift for many students who moved online in 2020 as in-person classes were canceled to mitigate the spread of Covid-19. Hudson said school officials are monitoring water pressure “hoping to resume face-to-face classes next week.”

Hudson said rental portable showers and toilets have been installed throughout campus and water is delivered to students.

Hudson told CNN earlier this week that the state of Jackson stores drinking water for emergencies. The university is also bringing in clean water to keep chillers running for air conditioning in the dormitories, he added.

“It’s their frustration that worries me,” Hudson said. “This is the fact that it hinders their learning, so what we are trying to do is really focus on how we can best meet their needs.”

Jackson’s water system has a troubled history

Jackson’s water system has had problems for years and the city had already received boiling water notices since late July. Systemic and environmental racism It is one of the causes of the ongoing water problem in Jackson and the lack of resources to deal with it. According to Census data, approximately 82.5% of Jackson’s population identifies as Black or African American.

Governor Tate Reeves said this week that the main pump at Jackson’s main OB Curtis water treatment plant was severely damaged around late July, forcing it to run on a smaller backup pump, but city officials Neither has provided details.

The city announced on August 9 that the problematic pump had been shut down. Then, last week, heavy rains flooded the Pearl River, culminating on Monday, flooding some streets in Jackson and also impacting the intake of reservoirs that feed drinking water treatment plants.

People fill jugs with drinking water at Forest Hill High School in Jackson, Mississippi, on August 31, 2022.

Jim Craig, Senior Deputy Commissioner for Health Protection at the Mississippi Department of Health, said chemical imbalances in the conventional processing side of the plant affected particle removal, causing the plant to temporarily shut down and The result is a loss of water distribution pressure.

Temporarily rented pumps were installed at the factory on Wednesday, and by Thursday they were making a “substantial” profit, the city said, while workers undertook a “series of repairs and equipment adjustments.”

However, it is still unclear when drinking water will resume flowing to city residents.Thursday, the people of Jackson It is recommended to take a shower with your mouth closed.

According to Hudson, the university has received “an overwhelming amount of support from organizations and individuals donating through the Gap Fund, which provides financial assistance to students for drinking water, bottled water, and emergency costs. Is receiving”.

“We will continue to work with the City of Jackson to provide updates on our progress in resuming operations at our water treatment facility. will remain open to accommodate ,” he said. See Labor Day weekend.

city ​​official report on saturday Most of the city’s water pressure has been restored, but boiling water advisories are still in place and pressure is expected to continue to fluctuate as repairs continue. said they were fixing the automated system for

“I thought this year would be my first normal year.”

Trenity Usher, 20, a junior at Jackson State University, said she thought this would be her first “normal year” on campus before the water crisis wreaked havoc on the city.

Usher’s freshman year began in 2020 when Covid-19 forced colleges across the country to move classes online. Usher said she was one of the few freshmen who decided to live on campus. During the second semester in February 2021, A winter storm froze and burst the pipemany city dwellers and university students have been left without water for at least a month.

Unlike Washington, who was able to return home to Chicago, Usher has to stay on campus because he is a member of the school band.

Usher moved into the dormitory on August 19, but water is still an issue, she said. “The water from the faucet is getting thinner,” she said.

“Many people are packing up and leaving, and the parking lots are empty,” she said. If Usher didn’t have to stay, she probably would have moved back to Atlanta, she says.

“We practice six to seven hours a day, what about showers?” Usher said. She also has an emotional support bunny in addition to herself who must make sure there is enough water.

Usher said due to water pressure issues on campus, she had to fill a trash can with bottled water to shower outside. She called the situation “terrifying.”

Water is dripping from the faucet in a senior living apartment in Jackson on Sept. 1, 2022.

Freshman Jaylin Clark, 18, was on campus a week before the floods. She got to know the campus and got the chance to meet new people. Clark said she was looking forward to her experience attending a historically black college, and she enjoyed the perks of being able to stay close to her home just three hours from New Orleans.

Clarke began seeing flood warnings for the river last Thursday, making him nervous about the possibility of flooding nearby roads and trapping him on campus.

“Basically, I couldn’t do my laundry because the water pressure was low, the shower and toilet didn’t work well, and it even affected the air conditioning,” she said, adding that the water was brown and smelled like sewage. .

Clark ultimately decided to return home to New Orleans on August 30, shower, wash his clothes, and attend online classes until the matter was resolved.

“I love Jackson State University, so I’m going with the flow, but this water problem is like a rain cloud and a shadow cast over it.”

CNN’s Amir Vera, Sara Smart, Theresa Waldrop, Nouran Salahieh, Jason Hanna, Amy Simonson, Melissa Alonso, Amara Walker, Amanda Musa, Maria Cartaya, Carol Alvarado, Peter Nickeas, Isabel Rosales, and Hannah Sarisohn contributed to this report. .

Source: www.cnn.com

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