The Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, says the water in Jackson, Mississippi is safe to drink. The announcement from the agency comes more than two months after historic flooding. The flooding triggered a public water crisis and many still don’t trust what is coming from the tap. The catastrophic system failure, weeks of boil water notices, and brown, cloudy water flowing freely from pipes across Mississippi’s largest city cast lingering doubts.
“Current sampling confirms water delivered from J.H. Fewell Water and O.B. Curtis Water Treatment is safe to drink. In addition, sampling for lead and copper has been completed and results are expected in mid-November.”Statement from the Environmental Protection Agency
Furthermore, the mayor of Jackson says the update from the EPA is “welcomed news.” Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba also reports to CNN, the city is now in compliance with the Safe Water Drinking Act. Lumumba also says the city is actively working to secure a firm to handle the operations and maintenance at the O.B. Curtis Water Plant. This plant failed in August triggering the city’s latest struggle with water. The firm also points to decades of deferred maintenance for leading to the crisis.
While the EPA announcement is welcomed in Mississippi’s Capitol, the area remains under a state of emergency. Governor Tate Reeves extended the emergency order until November 22, 2022. In a statement, Gov. Reeves says the extension will give management at the O.B. Curtis plant time to transition to a private operator chosen by the city.
EPA opens Civil Rights Investigation
In addition to the safety announcement, the agency says it is taking action following complaints from residents and the NAACP. The EPA announced a civil rights investigation into the handling of the city’s water crisis. Specifically, whether the Mississippi Department of Health and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality “discriminated against the majority Black population of the City of Jackson on the basis of race in the funding of water infrastructure and treatment programs and activities.” According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 83% of Jackson‘s 149,000 residents are black.