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Could a Jackson-type water crisis happen in New Orleans? There are similarities

From the pipes to the treatment plant to the intake pumps on the Mississippi River, New Orleans 100-year-old water system is suffering from years of neglect.

NEW ORLEANS — Sewerage and Water Board crews were in the Little Woods neighborhood Friday, repairing a water line break in the 7300 block of Hickman Street. 

It’s not far from where crews recently attached a new main to the city’s aging network of underground pipes. 

 “800 miles we have of our drinking water pipes have surpassed their service life,” SWBNO Executive Director Ghassan Korban said. “Those need to be replaced.” 

From the pipes to the treatment plant to the intake pumps on the Mississippi River, New Orleans 100-year-old water system is suffering from years of neglect. Korban is closely watching the crisis in Jackson, Mississippi. 

That’s where more than 150,000 residents are without safe water – after the city’s main water treatment facility shut down. Flooding on the pearl river made long-standing problems at the plant – even worse. 

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said it was only a matter of time before the system failed. 

“This is a set of accumulated problems based on deferred maintenance that has not taken place over decades.” 

Korban admits Jackson’s water problems hit close to home. 

“It served as a wake-up call to many of us in the water utility business across the nation,” Korban said. “Jackson could have been any other city across the nation. We all face the same fragile, neglected infrastructure systems.” 

Korban says even $275 million from the federal bi-partisan infrastructure plan won’t fix all of the city’s water woes. 

“We’re all talking about billions of dollars for drinking water, even drainage in this city in excess of a billion dollars.” 

So far, the Sewerage and Water Board has not sent any crews to Jackson to help out. But Ghassan Korban says that they stand ready, willing and able to offer assistance if asked. 

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