Energy & Environment

DOJ to appoint third-party manager in Jackson following water crisis

FILE -Clouds are reflected off the City of Jackson’s O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Facility’s sedimentation basins in Ridgeland, Miss., Friday, Sept. 2, 2022. Mississippi’s capital city has been awarded a tranche of federal funds to help fix its crumbling water infrastructure. The infusion of funds arrives after flooding-induced breakdowns at Jackson’s main water treatment plant in late August left 150,000 people without running water for several days. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

The Justice Department will appoint a third-party manager as part of its oversight of Jackson, Miss., following the city’s water crisis earlier in the year.

The manager, who has not been named, would be responsible for stabilizing the drinking water system for the city, which saw its second crisis in as many years this August.

The department said in a federal court filing Tuesday that the city and the Mississippi State Department of Health have agreed to the terms of the proposal.

The city council voted earlier in November to approve an agreement with the federal government to overhaul the city’s water system. The department also said in its announcement that it is filing a complaint on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) alleging it failed to provide reliable, clean drinking water to residents.

“Today the Justice Department is taking action in federal court to address long-standing failures in the city of Jackson’s public drinking water system,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. “The Department of Justice takes seriously its responsibility to keep the American people safe and to protect their civil rights. Together with our partners at EPA, we will continue to seek justice for the residents of Jackson, Mississippi. And we will continue to prioritize cases in the communities most burdened by environmental harm.”

“I pledged that EPA would do everything in its power to ensure the people of Jackson have clean and dependable water, now and into the future,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement. “While there is much more work ahead, the Justice Department’s action marks a critical moment on the path to securing clean, safe water for Jackson residents. I’m grateful to the Attorney General for his partnership and commitment to this shared vision.”

The majority-Black city was left without clean water in August after flooding from the Pearl River knocked out the city’s water treatment plant. While Mississippi’s Republican leadership has said responsibility for fixing infrastructure falls on the city government, city officials have said the city needs at least $1 billion to upgrade its decaying water infrastructure. Following integration in the 1960s, a large percentage of the city’s white residents moved out, taking with them a large part of the city’s tax base.

The year before, meanwhile, winter weather led residents to lose access to water for weeks.

Tags Merrick Garland Michael Regan

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