Story highlights

Lead concerns prompt Mississippi to issue water warning for pregnant women, young children

Byram resident: "It is frightening to know that you may be drinking water that has contaminants"

CNN —  

Mississippi officials are warning that pregnant women and kids 5 years old and younger should stay away from tap water in the capital city because of lead concerns.

The scope of the warning is unclear, as neither officials in Mayor Tony Yarber’s office nor in the Jackson Public Works Department responded to a question about the number of households the water system serves.

This is not another Flint, Michigan, health officials insist. Still, the state Department of Health issued several recommendations for Jackson residents after consulting with the federal Environmental Protection Agency and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

• Before drinking or cooking with tap water, run cold water through the faucet for a minute or two;

• Don’t use hot water for drinking or cooking;

• Prepare baby formula with filtered or bottled water;

• Parents of children 6 and younger should take their kids for lead screening and blood testing;

• Pregnant women and children 5 and younger should drink bottled or filtered water.

“Although the majority of home lead testing performed identified no lead, or lead below the action level … we are issuing these recommendations as a special precaution for young children and pregnant women,” state epidemiologist Thomas Dobbs said in a news release.

As in Flint, the concern involves the corrosiveness of Jackson’s water, which the state Department of Health is monitoring. Corrosive water can cause the lead in older pipes and soldered joints to leach out.

The precaution will remain in place for the next six months while Jackson undertakes changes to the water system that will “stabilize the alkalinity and pH levels in the system,” said Jim Craig, the department’s director of health protection.

Would you drink this?

But while officials emphasize these are merely precautions, it hasn’t allayed the concerns of those who use the water from Jackson’s system.

In the suburb of Byram, which gets most of its water from Jackson, Mayor Richard White told CNN affiliate WAPT he worries that this has been going on for a while and something should have been done “a long time ago.”

Said resident Chantay Steen: “It is frightening to know that you may be drinking water that has contaminants that could be harmful to children, adults, pregnant women. It is concerning.”