JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has opened a federal civil rights investigation into the State of Mississippi concerning the Jackson water crisis.
Most homes and businesses in Jackson were without running water for several days in late August and early September.
Heavy rainfall in late August exacerbated problems at the O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Facility, and Governor Tate Reeves (R-Miss.) declared a state of emergency on August 29. The city had been under a boil water notice for about a month before the governor declared the emergency.
The Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) and the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) have been overseeing operations and repairs at the facility since then.
In September, the NAACP filed a discrimination complaint on behalf of Jackson residents. They said the state has engaged in a decades-long pattern and practice of discriminating against the capital city by curtailing federal funds to improve local water systems. About 80% of Jackson’s 150,000 residents are Black.
“We applaud the EPA, Administrator Regan, and the Biden Administration for taking this issue seriously and opening a federal investigation into the state’s racially discriminatory use of federal funds for the City of Jackson’s water systems,” said NAACP President Derrick Johnson. “This action is only the first step. We encourage EPA to move expeditiously to conduct its investigation and to require comprehensive remedies to help resolve this crisis.
Earlier this week, Congress announced they’re investigating the water crisis.
Reps. Bennie Thompson, of Mississippi, and Carolyn Maloney, of New York, sent the letter Monday requesting information on how Mississippi plans to spend $10 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act and from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and $429 million “specifically allotted to enhance the state’s water infrastructure.”
The letter indicates “the start of a joint investigation” by the House Homeland Security and the Oversight and Reform committees into the water crisis.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.