Reeves adds that it is very promising that this problem is now going to be solved outside of the city’s backrooms.
Earlier today, the United States Department of Justice filed a proposal in federal court that upon approval would appoint an Interim Third Party Manager to stabilize the city of Jackson, Mississippi’s public drinking water system, saying it would build confidence in the system’s ability to supply safe drinking water to the system’s customers.
“The city and the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) have signed this order and agreed to its terms,” the Department of Justice said. “At the same time, the Justice Department, on behalf of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), filed a complaint against the city alleging that the city has failed to provide drinking water that is reliably compliant with the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) to the system’s customers.”
The proposal seeks the court’s appointment of an Interim Third Party Manager that would have the authority to, among other things:
- Operate and maintain the city’s public drinking water system in compliance with SDWA, the Mississippi Safe Drinking Water Act, and related regulations;
- Take charge of the Water Sewer Business Administration, the arm of the city responsible for billing water users;
- Implement capital improvements to the city’s public drinking water system, in particular, a set of priority projects meant to improve the system’s near-term stability, including a winterization project meant to make the system less vulnerable to winter storms; and
- Correct conditions within the city’s public drinking water system that present, or may present, an imminent and substantial endangerment to the health of the city’s residents.
Tuesday afternoon, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves released a statement regarding the Department of Justice’s announcement.
The Governor said it is “excellent news” for anyone who cares about the people of Jackson that Mayor Chokwe Lumumba will no longer be overseeing the city’s water system.
“It is now out of the city’s control, and will be overseen by a federal court,” Reeves said.
“It has been a chaotic series of months, while the state has assumed their responsibility. The people on the ground who rushed to help were floored by the negligence,” Reeves added. “They did heroic work to fix so many broken things and support the frontline city workers who had been abandoned. We committed millions of dollars from taxpayers across Mississippi to solve this crisis of incompetence.”
Less than 72 hours after the emergency was declared, water pressure was returned to the city and days later, the boil water alert was lifted. Reeves said they distributed millions of dollars in water via the National Guard to ensure people could flush their toilets and drink safe water.
“You may remember that the Mayor injected further chaos into the story by undermining the EPA’s request for the state to find a maintenance contract for the city. He insisted that he must direct the payments,” the Mississippi Governor detailed. “Since that stunt and our subsequent decision to set an end date for our running of their system, the federal government accelerated their efforts to put someone competent in charge.”
Reeves said their order was filed and made public today and the system should be out of “city politician hands very soon.”
The state of emergency came to an end last week, but Reeves said he has authorized MEMA to commit another $240,000 from the state’s Disaster Mitigation Fund for maintenance as a bridge between today and the new leadership.
“That should help close out this chapter without further chaos,” Governor Reeves stated. “More work to do, but it is very promising that this problem is now going to be solved outside of the city’s backrooms. I’m very proud of what everyone has done to come together and fix a longstanding issue and ensure that chaos and corruption cannot keep the people of Jackson from accessing clean water.”