Water in Jackson now safe to drink, third-party crisis manager says

At least it is currently, assures Ted Henifen, the new third-party administrator of Jackson, Mississippi's water system.

Loading the player...

The water in Mississippi’s capital city is safe to drink. At least it is now, assures Ted Henifen, the Jackson water system’s new third-party administrator.

According to the Mississippi Clarion-Ledger, Henifen now oversees the ongoing crisis, taking over a system plagued by bad management for over a century. Henifen, who was appointed to the position after the federal government became involved in the crisis and was introduced Monday at Jackson City Hall by Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, said Jackson has the most tested water in America.

“We are running very well at the moment,” Henifin said, according to the Clarion-Ledger.

Jackson water crisis
Terrence Carter mixes bleach and soap into the water Thursday before washing dishes in Jackson, Mississippi. Ted Henifen now oversees the ongoing water crisis, taking over a system subject to bad management for over a century. (Photo: Brad Vest/Getty Images)

“There is a lot of confidence,” he continued. “The EPA is still on site testing the water. If you are worried about drinking water, I say come to Jackson. This water is really high quality and very, very well tested and approved.”

​​Henifin, who retired in February, had a nearly 40-year career in government, working in both the federal and local sectors of public works and utilities in Virginia.

He said that although he was ready to retire, he stepped into the Jackson water crisis because he felt the city and its citizens deserve access to reliable, safe drinking water.

For the last three months, he spent two weeks at a time in the city, gaining a working knowledge of the water system and meeting residents, the Clarion-Ledger reported. “We are going to get the system back to a sustainable place where it is providing consistent high quality safe drinking water,” said Henifin, who predicted the process would last shorter than the year specified in the interim court order that included his appointment.

According to the order, the budget for all professional staff and services associated with managing the Jackson water crisis is $2,976,500.

Henifin — who does not anticipate increasing water bills for Jackson residents as the procedure advances — offered his assistance, but with three conditions: Jackson was not to be handcuffed with the bill, he had to be free of directives from the local and state governments, and he had to have substantial personal liability.

He noted that he managed to get everything he was seeking, with Lumumba calling Henifin’s outlined conditions “perfect.”

“We didn’t want [Henifin] to be limited by state procurement law and the bureaucracy of government,” Lumumba said, the Clarion-Ledger reported. “We are trying to be aggressive and tackle these challenges as fast as we can. So, we wanted to put those expert decisions in the hands of an expert. That worked for us, and we were in agreement wholeheartedly.”

TheGrio is FREE on your TV via Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku and Android TV. Also, please download theGrio mobile apps today!