There have been some improvements in the Jackson water crisis over the past week, but state and city officials continue to point the finger at each other as residents still struggle to get access to clean water.
During a press conference on Labor Day, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves told the media there had been “significant” improvements in Jackson’s water system and that the state is considering many long-term solutions, including leasing the city’s management to a private company.
“We know that it is always possible that there will be more severe challenges,” said Gov. Reeves during the press conference. “This water system broke over several years and it would be inaccurate to claim it is totally solved in the matter of less than a week.”
Although optimistic, Gov. Reeves also warned of potential issues in the future.
“There may be more bad days in the future,” said Reeves. “We have however reached a place where people in Jackson can trust that water will come out of the faucet, toilets can be flushed and fires can be put out.”
When addressing Jackson’s decades-old water problem, Reeves said he is open” to all ideas and privatization is one of them.
“Privatization is on the table,” the governor said. “Having a commission that oversees failed water systems as they have in many states is on the table. I’m open to ideas.”
But privatizing Jackson’s water system is something Jackson Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba has publicly opposed, although he has said he would consider a “maintenance agreement with a private company.
Mayor Lumumba and Gov. Reeves have been bickering over Jackson’s water issues for some time.
According to Mississippi Free Press, Reeves has repeatedly criticized Lumumba over the city’s water problems, citing water billing issues, staffing issues at the water plant, and failing to provide the State with a plan to fix the water system.
“Unfortunately, we’ve never received a real plan from Jackson on how to improve their water system so the state could consider how to fund it,” said Reeves.
But Lumumba claims he gave Reeves the city’s capital improvement plan, which he said included funding requests for the water treatment plant, documents he allegedly shared with Axios. Lumumba said he never received a response from Gov. Reeves but doesn’t believe a spat between the two would be productive.
“The residents don’t really care about how we feel about each other when there’s no water coming out of the tap,” Lumumba told Axios.
Jackson, Mississippi isn’t new to water problems.
Jackson has struggled with safe water access since the 1940s, but nothing has been done.
In the 1970s and again in 2020, the EPA warned that the city had to get serious about updating its infrastructure to improve water quality, but they didn’t.
Jackson’s Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said the city’s water plant had failed numerous times since 2020. According to the official, in early 2020, the city’s water system failed an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) inspection. In the report, the agency wrote that the drinking water “had the potential to have the presence of” harmful bacteria and parasites, “based on evidence” of turbidity and cloudiness in the water. They also expressed concerns about the “condition of the distribution system.”
In 2021, a vicious winter storm blew through the Gulf Coast, leaving the city without drinkable water for more than two weeks.
A boil water notice has been in effect in Jackson since July 29, 2022.
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