Mississippi Chapter Helps With City’s Water Woes

Feb 17, 2023

three adults stand together outside

By Alison Laurio 

Heavy rainfall in late August exacerbated ongoing problems at the main water treatment facility in Jackson, Miss., prompting Gov. Tate Reeves to declare a state of emergency. The Pearl River flooded Jackson, leading to low water pressure and a malfunction of pumps. Although a boil-water notice was lifted in mid-September, many residents remain skeptical about water safety. 

Gwen Bouie-Haynes, PhD, LMSW, executive director of NASW’s Mississippi chapter, said when the flooding began and the city treatment system failed, some chapter members sought donations to purchase containers to fill with clean water. They left them at sites where people could pick up the water, she said.  

The chapter again became involved in distributing water after the river flooded, because there are two social work schools in the area. “When the Pearl River flooded and the Jackson system failed, we had to get involved,” Bouie-Haynes said. “I contacted UPS, and the UPS Foundation donated 10 pallets of water. Those we distributed between Jackson State University and Belhaven University.” 

The chapter reached out to members requesting volunteers to help distribute the water, she said, and about 100 people volunteered. “We set up shifts and started working from there to get the water to campuses.” At right: Chapter student intern Reginald Virgil delivering water during the city of Jackson’s water crisis. 

The lack of investment in the aging city water system and the resulting ongoing problems have left residents wondering if it ever would be restored and usable, she said. “People just don’t trust it.” 

By the time the emergency order was issued in August, Jackson residents had already been told for a month to boil their water to kill possible contaminants, news reports stated. Volunteers and the National Guard had distributed millions of bottles of drinking water.

NASW members can read the full story at NASW Social Work Advocates Magazine.

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