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Federal attorneys agree to pause...

Federal attorneys agree to pause litigation on Jackson water system

By: Sarah Ulmer - May 18, 2023

This is an aerial view of of the City of Jackson's O.B. Curtis Water Plant, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

The halt in litigation is part of a plan to allow Jackson to continue efforts underway to fix the water system.

Attorneys with Mississippi, the federal government, and the city of Jackson have agreed to pause litigation on a complaint filed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The decision to halt the litigation came after attorneys requested a six-month stay in the case. This is the second time the request has been made. It is believed that the delay is part of the federal government’s attempt to find a solution for the failing water system.

The complaint, filed by the U.S. Justice Department, said Jackson was not meeting regulatory standards for reliable drinking water. The municipal water system was nearly non-operational in August of 2022, which caused the state to step in. For nearly a month’s time, residents in Jackson were not able to drink their water at home.

Disaster in August

Shortly after the August incident, Governor Tate Reeves issued a State of Emergency due to the failures at the O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant. The Governor deployed the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and the Mississippi National Guard to assist in the operations.

Since the complaint was filed in November, Jackson’s water system has been under the operation of third-part interim director Ted Henifin. U.S. District Court Judge Henry Wingate appointed Henifin.

At the time of the appointment, EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said they were dedicated to making sure Jackson has safe drinking water.

“Over the past year, I’ve had the privilege to spend time with people on the ground in Jackson – many who’ve struggled with access to safe and reliable water for years,” said Regan. “I pledged that EPA would do everything in its power to ensure the people of Jackson have clean and dependable water, now and into the future. While there is much more work ahead, the Justice Department’s action marks a critical moment on the path to securing clean, safe water for Jackson residents. I’m grateful to the Attorney General for his partnership and commitment to this shared vision.”

In February, Henefin released a 30-page plan to fix the issues in the system that he said came from decades of mismanagement.

“This plan has been developed with a focus on getting the system onto a path to sustainable, affordable operation that can reliably provide safe drinking water to all current users of the system,” Henifin said. “Keeping the system operated and maintained to provide reliable and safe water, will require on-going regular investments funded by the residents of Jackson through a local revenue stream generated by the system’s customers.”

Just last week Judge Wingate indicated he was likely to also put Henefin over the Jackson sewer system as well. A recent report shows there are 250 sanitary sewer overflows impacting the Pearl River. The city is already under a sewer consent decree which outlines particular steps the city must take as it addresses the issues.

About the Author(s)
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Sarah Ulmer

Sarah is a Mississippi native, born and raised in Madison. She is a graduate of Mississippi State University, where she studied Communications, with an emphasis in Broadcasting and Journalism. Sarah’s experience spans multiple mediums, including extensive videography with both at home and overseas, broadcasting daily news, and hosting a live radio show. In 2017, Sarah became a member of the Capitol Press Corp in Mississippi and has faithfully covered the decisions being made by leaders on some of the most important issues facing our state. Email Sarah: