"A Water Crisis In Mississippi Turns Into A Fight Against Privatization"

"Thanks to a federal judge, residents of Jackson will have a say in how the city resolves its yearslong water crisis."

"In the summer of 2022, heavy rainfall damaged a water treatment plant in the city of Jackson, Mississippi, precipitating a high-profile public health crisis. The Republican Governor Tate Reeves declared a state of emergency, as thousands of residents were told to boil their water before drinking it. For some, the pressure in their taps was so low that they couldn’t flush their toilets and were forced to rely on bottled water for weeks.

Many of the city’s 150,000 residents were wary that their local government could get clean water running through their pipes again. State officials had a history of undermining efforts to repair Jackson’s beleaguered infrastructure, and the city council, for its part, didn’t have the money to make the fixes on its own. So when the federal government stepped in that fall, allocating funding and appointing an engineer to manage the city’s water system, there was reason to believe change may finally be near.

But as the months wore on, hope turned to frustration. The federally appointed engineer, Ted Henifin, began taking steps to run the city’s water system through a private company, despite Mayor Chokwe Lumumba’s objections. Advocates’ repeated requests for data and other information about Jackson’s drinking water went unanswered, according to a local activist, Makani Themba, and despite Henifin’s assurances before a federal judge that the water was safe to drink, brown liquid still poured out of some taps. Faced with these conditions, a group of advocates sent the Environmental Protection Agency a letter last July asking to be involved in the overhaul of the city’s water system."

Lylla Younes reports for Grist April 26, 2024.

Source: Grist, 04/29/2024