DOJ reaches settlement, new complaint to Jackson, Mississippi over water crisis

The U.S. Department of Justice has reached a settlement and has filed a new complaint in Jackson, Mississippi, regarding alleged mismanagement of the city’s water system.

DOJ, in agreement with the City of Jackson, will install a third-party monitor to make sure the water in the city is safe to drink.

Historic flooding in Mississippi in August damaged a large pump at Jackson’s main water treatment plant, the OB Curtis Water Plant, leaving about 150,000 of the city’s most Black residents without drinking water.

Water shortages forced residents to line up on streets and highways throughout Jackson to get water from distribution areas.

In a separate complaint, the Justice Department alleges that the city is mismanaging its water system, alleging that the system is failing to provide its customers with drinking water that reliably complies with the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).

“Today, the Department of Justice is taking action in federal court to fix longstanding faults in the city of Jackson’s public drinking water system,” Attorney General Merrick B. 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.

Water flows from a faucet in Jackson, Mississippi on September 1, 2022.

Carlos Barria/Reuters

The most recent water crisis highlighted the decades-long plight of residents due to the city’s ongoing water problems, raising questions about how Jackson got into this situation.

In the wake of the crisis, EPA Administrator Michael Regan said the Environmental Protection Agency, DOJ and city officials were working to find a “forensically viable solution” to “provide the people of Jackson with safe and reliable drinking water.” moon.

“We act with a sense of urgency,” Regan said.

On November 17, the Jackson City Council approved an interim agreement with the EPA outlining the actions the city must take to comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Eagan said at a news conference on September 7 that Mississippi is ready to receive more than $26 million in State Revolving Funds (SRF) this year.

Government funds help public water systems finance the costs of infrastructure projects needed to achieve or maintain compliance set under the SDWA.

PHOTO: Representative Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., in Jackson, Miss., regarding a malfunctioning water system in the black-dominated capital of Mississippi on October 24, 2022.  speaking to an audience of residents.

Representative Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., on October 24, 2022, in Jackson, Miss., regarding the malfunctioning water system in the black-dominated capital of Mississippi. speaking to an audience of residents.

Rogelio V. Solis/AP, FILE

Last year, the EPA announced it would receive approximately $75 million for Mississippi’s water infrastructure projects as part of the Bilateral Infrastructure Act, which President Joe Biden signed in November 2021.

Eagan said Mississippi is expected to receive $400 million through law over the next five years.

Meredith Deliso of ABC News contributed to this report.

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