DOJ files new lawsuit against Jackson, appoints third party to monitor water source

Jackson, Mississippi's primary water treatment facility was devastated by flooding in August, leaving about 150,000 without drinkable water.

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a new lawsuit against Jackson, Mississippi, while settling another against the Southern city.

According to ABC News, the Justice Department and the city of Jackson came to an arrangement in which federal officials appoint a third party to monitor Jackson’s water source — due to the city’s alleged mismanagement of the system — and guarantee it is safe to drink.

The O.B. Curtis Water Plant in Ridgeland, Mississippi, Jackson’s primary water treatment facility, was devastated by historic flooding in August, rendering about 150,000 primarily Black citizens in Jackson without access to drinkable water. Residents there had to wait in lines on streets and highways to get water from distribution points because of the water deficit.

The O.B. Curtis Water Plant in Ridgeland, Mississippi, the primary water treatment facility for Jackson, was devastated by flooding in August, creating a water crisis for about 150,000 residents in Mississippi’s capital city. (Photo: Steve Helber/AP, File)

In a different lawsuit, announced Tuesday, the Justice Department asserts that the city mismanaged the water system and did not reliably provide customers with drinking water that complied with the Safe Drinking Water Act.

“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 B. Garland said in a statement, ABC reported. “The Department of Justice takes seriously its responsibility to keep the American people safe and to protect their civil rights.”

The most recent water crisis brought to light Jackson citizens’ long-standing struggles with the city’s persistent water problems and prompted serious inquiries about how the locale ended up in this predicament.

The Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Justice and Jackson city officials have collaborated to find a “judicially enforceable solution” to provide safe and reliable drinking water for area residents, EPA Administrator Michael Regan said this month.

The EPA adopted a temporary agreement on Nov. 17, outlining the steps the Jackson City Council must take to comply with the SDWA.

Regan revealed at a news conference in September that Mississippi would get $26 million in State Revolving Funds this year — and that’s in addition to the $30 million it received in 2021 for Jackson.

The Revolving Funds money will assist public water utilities in covering the expenses of infrastructure upgrades required to achieve or maintain compliance with the SDWA’s standards.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, signed by President Joe Biden in November 2021, provided Mississippi with almost $75 million for water infrastructure projects, according to a statement made by the EPA last year.

The state should receive $400 million through the legislation over the next five years.

“We are moving,” Eagan said, according to ABC, “with a sense of urgency.”

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