EPA opens civil rights probe into Mississippi water woes

JACKSON, Miss. — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stated Thursday that it’s investigating whether or not Mississippi state companies discriminated towards the state’s majority-Black capital metropolis by refusing to fund enhancements for its failing water system.

The announcement got here days after leaders of two congressional committees stated they have been beginning a joint investigation into a disaster that left most properties and companies in Jackson with out working water for a number of days in late August and early September.

Heavy rainfall in late August exacerbated issues at Jackson’s principal water therapy facility. Republican Gov. Tate Reeves declared an emergency Aug. 29, and the state well being division and the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency have been overseeing operations and repairs on the facility since then.

About 80% of Jackson’s 150,000 residents are Black, and a couple of quarter of the inhabitants lives in poverty. By the time Reeves issued the emergency order, Jackson residents had already been informed for a month to boil their water earlier than to kill doable contaminants.

NAACP President Derrick Johnson, who lives in Jackson together with his household, known as the EPA investigation a step in the appropriate route after years of the state withholding federal funds wanted to avert the town’s water system.

“We believe we gave compelling evidence that the state of Mississippi intentionally starved the city of Jackson of the resources to maintain its water infrastructure,” Johnson informed The Associated Press on Thursday. “We want the EPA and this administration to put forth a course of action to prevent the state of Mississippi from ever doing this again.”

Johnson was named amongst a number of resident complainants within the NAACP’s civil rights grievance towards Mississippi. He stated the state’s inaction and report of divestment in Jackson quantities to “systemic neglect.”

“We believe that all citizens of this country should be entitled to clean, fresh drinking water,” Johnson stated. “Unfortunately, we live in a state that is still dealing in racial politics. And as a result of that, you have state leaders who seek to penalize African American residents of the city of Jackson in a very discriminatory way.”

Reeves stated Thursday that the state took management of Jackson’s water system due to “absolute and total incompetence” of Jackson’s Democratic mayor and administration. The governor’s newest remarks are an escalation of a dispute between him and Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba over whether or not the state or the town will resolve on a non-public agency to function Jackson’s water system.

“They have proven that they have no ability to manage the water system,” Reeves informed reporters throughout an occasion on the Governor’s Mansion, in line with a video of the occasion by WLBT-TV.

In a federal grievance Sept. 27, the NAACP stated Mississippi officers “all but assured” a consuming water calamity in Jackson by depriving the state’s majority-Black capital metropolis of badly wanted funds to improve its infrastructure. The group requested the EPA to research the state’s alleged sample of steering money to white communities with much less want.

The group stated the state’s refusal to fund enhancements in Jackson culminated in late August when the water system suffered a near-total collapse after a heavy rainstorm. Over 25 years, it stated, Jackson obtained funds from an necessary federal program solely 3 times. When Jackson tried to fund enhancements itself, these efforts have been repeatedly blocked by Mississippi state political leaders, in line with the grievance.

The NAACP desires the EPA to make it possible for any longer federal funds are distributed equitably.

The NAACP filed its grievance with the EPA beneath Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids recipients of federal funds from discriminating based mostly on race or nationwide origin. While beforehand the regulation was hardly ever used to pursue environmental issues, the Biden administration has elevated its enforcement efforts in communities overburdened by air pollution.

Recently, the EPA stated it had preliminary proof that Louisiana state officers allowed air air pollution in an industrial stretch of Louisiana to stay excessive and downplayed the risk to Black residents that stay within the industrial part of the state generally known as most cancers alley. The company has additionally opened up an investigation into Colorado’s air allowing program and into state and native officers in Alabama over persistent wastewater issues in majority-Black Lowndes County.


Associated Press author Michael Phillis in St. Louis contributed to this report. Daly reported from Washington and Morrison reported from New York.

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