JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – The United States filed a proposal in federal court that, if approved by the court, would appoint an Interim Third Party Manager to handle the City of Jackson’s water crisis.
Jackson leaders and officials with the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) have signed this order and agreed to its terms. At the same time, the Justice Department, on behalf of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), filed a complaint against the city alleging that the city has failed to provide drinking water that is reliably compliant with the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) to the system’s customers.
The proposal is meant to serve as an interim measure while the United States, the city, and MSDH attempt to negotiate a judicially enforceable consent decree to achieve long-term sustainability of the system and the city’s compliance with the SDWA and other relevant laws.
“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,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “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.”
“Over the past year, I’ve had the privilege to spend time with people on the ground in Jackson – many who’ve struggled with access to safe and reliable water for years,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “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. 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 proposal seeks the court’s appointment of an Interim Third Party Manager that would have the authority to, among other things:
- Operate and maintain the city’s public drinking water system in compliance with SDWA, the Mississippi Safe Drinking Water Act, and related regulations;
- Take charge of the Water Sewer Business Administration, the arm of the city responsible for billing water users;
- Implement capital improvements to the city’s public drinking water system, in particular, a set of priority projects meant to improve the system’s near-term stability, including a winterization project meant to make the system less vulnerable to winter storms; and
- Correct conditions within the city’s public drinking water system that present, or may present, an imminent and substantial endangerment to the health of the city’s residents.
On July 29, MSDH issued a boil-water notice for Jackson’s public drinking water system. The next month, the city proclaimed an emergency after excessive rainfall and extreme flooding prevented the system from delivering any water to residents living within the city and in certain areas of nearby Hinds County who rely on the system.
The water pressure was not restored until September 6, and the boil-water notice remained in effect until September 15.