AC EXON, Miss. (AP) – The sun shone, the ice melted. But more than a week after the deep freeze in the South, many communities are still struggling to get clean water to their cities.
For years, experts have warned of the need to modernize the often-neglected water mains. Now that the ice has broken through the region’s water mains, froze equipment and left millions without service, it is clear how much work needs to be done.
Families lined up to get drinking water. They boiled it to make it safe to drink or brush your teeth. They collected the snow and melted it in their baths. Hospitals have collected buckets of water to wash toilets.
“You do not realize how much water you are consuming until you have it,” said Brian Crawford, chief executive of the Willis-Knighton Health System in northwest Louisiana, returning to regular Wednesday. Trucks have been supplying water since last week.
Still emerging issues have identified a wide range of vulnerabilities. Many water systems have pipes that are decades old and are now fragile and breakable. White Flight has reduced tax revenues in some cities, and a lack of investment has made problems even more costly. Not many systems have been built in the South, given the low temperatures. However, if climate change is predicted to lead to more extreme weather, problems like last week may return.
According to a 2018 study by the US Environmental Protection Agency, $ 473 billion is needed over 20 years to maintain and improve water infrastructure. In a 2020 report, the American Society of Civil Engineers said water flow in the United States was interrupted every two minutes on average, describing “chronic, long-term, insufficient investment.” The introduction warned that “the nation’s public health և economy will be endangered.”
In fact, it is already happening.
The Mississippi capital, Ackson, was struggling to repair its damaged water network, with thousands still stranded. Residents of Memphis, with a population of 650,000, have been told to boil water for almost a week if they plan to use it for drinking, cooking or brushing their teeth. On Wednesday, more than 40,000 Louisiana residents were still dehydrated, and hundreds of thousands were under boiling counseling.
In Texas, more than 2 million people were left with boiled water alerts on Wednesday, and և 40 public water systems were “out of order”, affecting 25,000 people. At the height of the crisis last week, at least 7 million Texans said they needed to boil their water. The order was finally lifted Sunday in Houston, where millions of people have endured power and water outages in the nation’s fourth-largest city, which is more prone to storms than winter storms.
As temperatures in the South dropped below freezing, residents kept their taps open to prevent the pipes from freezing. But increased demand has taxed already struggling systems; ցածր low water pressure meant it was necessary to boil the consultation until safety tests were completed.
Charles Williams, director of public works for the city of Charles Exon, said that dozens of water pipes were broken when the frozen machines in the water plant began to melt as the temperature rose.
The old pipes in the city have a history of breaking after the cold weather, but the base of tax cuts Has Exxon is struggling to maintain its infrastructure. After integration, wealthy white families moved to the suburbs with their tax dollars. More than a quarter of the Mississippi black majority capital now lives in poverty.
James Ames Williams, 67, was left without water in his home for eight days, calling the Exxon water problem a public health crisis.
“Wealthy taxpayers left, so they left acks to suffer from Exxon,” said a retired Public Works Officer. “It’s not their concern, because they do not live here anymore.”
In 2014, an overwhelming majority of voters approved an additional 1% sales tax on infrastructure repairs, but raising $ 15 million a year is only part of Exxon’s needs. Mayor Chokve Antar Lumumba said about $ 2 billion was needed to modernize the water system.
“These tubes describe people who thin the holes to repair them, like peanuts are fragile,” he said. “They will repair a pipe in one part, they are just sitting and waiting, sometimes they will see that there is a break almost a few yards away.”
Monday was the first time in a week that residents could collect water outside the Madonna Manor, a 13-story home for the disabled. People brought laundry pans, dishes, buckets and trash cans.
Helen Scott, 68, collecting water in a pink bin, said people with cars could go to get water, but those with the least struggled the most.
He said. “Vulnerable people are lagging behind,” he said.
In Shrewsport, where about 200,000 people were told they had to drink water, Mayor Adrian Perkins pointed to “old, aging infrastructure, like most American cities.”
In 2019, voters rejected an offer of $ 186 million in Perkins bonds for infrastructure, including water system repairs and upgrades.
In Tennessee, Memphis Light, Gas & Water reported that the cold caused problems with pumping stations, water pipes, and ruptured service lines. The crew was making repairs, փորձ contaminants were being tested, but no return schedule was set for normal service.
Problems arose in some of the city’s 140 wells, which supply water to the reservoirs of eight major pumping stations. The wells failed, several reservoirs froze, and the engines at the pumping stations overheated. The constant freezing temperatures exposed problems at pumping stations and other parts of the system, some of which date back to the 1930s.
Utilities is in the second year of a five-year, $ 105 million infrastructure upgrade and consolidation program. At a news conference on Tuesday, JT Young, CEO of Utilities, said the program would be reviewed in light of the recent freeze to make sure it met the needs.
Deslat reported from Button Rouge, Louisiana. Associated Press reporters Adrian Sains contributed in Mantfis, Tennessee, and Acacia Coronado in Austin, Texas.