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EPA Inspector General team deployed to...

EPA Inspector General team deployed to investigate Jackson water crisis, per reports

By: Anne Summerhays - September 13, 2022

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File - July 9, 2021 - Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The IG office confirmed that it expects to officially announce the probe of the city’s water system soon.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Inspector General has confirmed to E&E News that personnel have been sent to Jackson, Mississippi to collect data and conduct interviews. The IG Office said that they expect to officially announce the probe of the Jackson’s water system soon.

NBC is also reporting the move by the EPA.

“The EPA OIG is keenly interested and concerned about what is happening in Jackson, Mississippi,” EPA spokesperson Jennifer Kaplan said, according to the NBC report.  “Last week, we began sending OIG personnel to collect data and conduct interviews, and over the coming week we expect to announce work related to the city’s water system.”

According to NBC, the OIG’s review of the Jackson water situation will start with “conversations with local, state and federal players who have a role in overseeing the public resources dedicated to ensuring residents have clean water.”

On Monday, Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba held a press briefing where he said that he told employees to cooperate with the investigation.

“I’ve had city employees that have called and said that someone asked them some questions. I just shared with them to cooperate,” WJTV reported Mayor Lumumba as saying. “That’s all I know. I don’t know the scope. I don’t know the timeline of what they’re looking at.”

“What I can share with you is that anytime you have an event that has as far-ranging implications as this one has had, then you should expect more questions,” Lumumba continued. “You should expect, you know, a deeper dive into that. And so, we embrace that. And, as I said, I will instruct everyone to cooperate.”

The NBC report notes that in recent years, the issues with Jackson’s water system have come under scrutiny from state and federal regulatory officials, “who have flagged problems ranging from inadequate staffing at the city’s main water treatment plant to delays in carrying out needed repairs.”

A recent exclusive report from Y’all Politics revealed that when state Health and Emergency Management officials arrived on-site at the O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Facility, they were met with a mix of “grateful faces” from a severely overworked and critically understaffed facility workforce operating in “fundamentally unsafe conditions” that needed to be immediately addressed.

READ MORE: EXCLUSIVE: Reports from inside Jackson’s water treatment plant since state intervention

Critically unsafe municipal staffing levels were discovered when state officials arrived on-site.  Particularly in the overnight hours, staff had dwindled to one operator on-site tasked with handling both the membrane and conventional filtering systems leaving a single point of failure from a staffing perspective.  They also discovered that there were not qualified electricians on-site, leaving unqualified staff to handle these critical tasks.

The facility had all but ceased standard preventative maintenance required for compliant water treatment facilities as the limited number of employees were essentially moving from “crisis to crisis” hourly.  This led to basic safety protocols and precautions being ignored due to lack of staffing. 

NBC notes that the EPA inspector general’s inquiry in Jackson is similar to the agency’s involvement in Flint, Michigan, which resulted in 9 indictments.

About the Author(s)
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Anne Summerhays

Anne Summerhays is a recent graduate of Millsaps College where she majored in Political Science, with minors in Sociology and American Studies. In 2021, she joined Y’all Politics as a Capitol Correspondent. Prior to making that move, she interned for a congressional office in Washington, D.C. and a multi-state government relations and public affairs firm in Jackson, Mississippi. While at Millsaps, Summerhays received a Legislative Fellowship with the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi where she worked with an active member of the Mississippi Legislature for the length of session. She has quickly established trust in the Capitol as a fair, honest, and hardworking young reporter. Her background in political science helps her cut through the noise to find and explain the truth. Email Anne: