Jacksonville students collecting bottled water for Jackson, Mississippi

Pregnant women, young children being warned not to drink lead-contaminated water

Historic flooding in Jackson, Mississippi, last month left around 150,000 people without drinkable water. Local students plan to collect bottled water this weekend to send to people in Jackson.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Local students will collect bottles of water to send to people in Jackson, Mississippi, who are dealing with the aftermath of another clean water crisis.

That water drive is happening at James Weldon Johnson Park on Sunday afternoon from noon to 4 p.m.

There are two specific groups that need this water.

Bottles of water will go to pregnant women and children younger than 6 years old because the tap water in Jackson could contain lead that is not safe for those groups.

Valencia Gibson with “I’m A Star Teens Foundation,” a student-led leadership program, and dozens of other students in Duval County as well as JaxParks are collecting clean water for Jackson, Mississippi.

“If Jacksonville, Florida, ever goes through this, I would want someone to care enough to donate water for us,” said Gibson, a senior at Ribault High School. “Put yourself in their shoes. They cannot take showers. They cannot wash their hands.”

About 150,000 Jackson residents were under a nearly two-month long boil-water advisory after heavy rain damaged its main water treatment facility.

That ended last week, but a state health department official said pregnant women and children younger than 6 should still be careful.

The system could contain lead, even if it is at a low level.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lead poisoning or exposure to it can lead to brain or nervous system damage, slowed growth and development, as well as learning, behavior, hearing or speech problems.

Raines High School principal Vincent Hall is bringing several students from his school to help with the bottled water drive Sunday.

“Our students are in a community where we receive a lot of support from our local community and our alumni,” Hall said. “I’d like for them to understand that in order to receive, the value is really in giving.”

Roughly 3,158 pre-K and kindergarten students in the Jackon school system need the water that is going to be collected.

Gibson and Hall say any help is help.

“We want to make certain that we give them an opportunity to be able to grow and learn in post-pre-kindergarten or kindergarten years so that they are able to grow academically and become who they want to become in this society,” Hall said.

“They are struggling with their physical health,” Gibson said. “They had to worry about COVID-19 and now they have to worry about water that they need that they cannot have. That is not fair.”

Following the water bottle drive Sunday afternoon, volunteers are planning to drive everything collected to Jackson, Mississippi, later that night for distribution.

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