Mississippi residents have been advised to shower with their mouths closed after floods damaged one of their treatment plants.
Almost 200,000 people in Jackson have been without safe drinking water and have now declared a water emergency.
“The water is not safe to drink, and I’d even say it’s not safe to brush your teeth with,” Mississippi State Health Officer Daniel Edney said.
“We are not seeing adequate chlorination and inability to consistently disinfect the water.”
Monday’s (29 August) storms caused the Pearl River to flood, with water pouring into one of the two water treatment plants. The water pressure remains low, meaning locals cannot take showers or flush their toilets.
On Wednesday, Mississippi Department of Health official Jim Craig advised the public not to “open your mouth while you’re in the shower.” He also said to keep animals away from water that has not been boiled for at least a minute.
One woman shared her harrowing story with BBC News, saying: “No water to drink. I honestly don’t want to bathe my baby in Jackson’s water.”
Another local told the outlet: “Me, as a parent, I’m going to do whatever it takes for us to survive this water crisis.”
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Jackson had already been under a boil water notice for a month, with “a formal notice issued to all properties in an area advising that drinking water from the public mains is not safe to drink unless it is boiled beforehand.”
“This is a very different situation from a boil-water notice – which is also a serious situation in which residents of Jackson have become tragically numb to,” said Governor Tate Reeves. “Until it is fixed, it means we do not have reliable running water.”
“I get it. I live in the city. It’s not news that I want to hear,” Reeves said. “But we are going to be there for you.”
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