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EPA Investigating Mississippi For Civil Rights Violations Over Jackson Water Crisis

The U.S. The Environmental Protection Agency has opened an investigation into the State of Mississippi for possible civil rights violations over the lack of reliable access to safe drinking water in the majority-Black capital City of Jackson. The long-running Jackson water crisis came to a head in late August and early September when residents went for weeks without clean running water due to failures at the City’s water treatment facility.

“Today’s decision by the EPA is a significant first step in holding the State accountable for its role in exacerbating the Jackson water crisis,” NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Director Abre’ Conner said in a Thursday afternoon statement. “For far too long, residents of Jackson, like Black communities across this country, have had water access weaponized against them.”

The NAACP filed a complaint with the EPA against the State of Mississippi in late September, calling for an investigation. “For years, the State of Mississippi, its agencies, instrumentalities, and officials (collectively ‘the State’) have discriminated on the basis of race against the City of Jackson, Mississippi (‘Jackson’) and its majority-Black population by diverting federal funds awarded to ensure safe drinking water and unpolluted surface waters and groundwater,” the complaint alleged.

In a letter today, the EPA said it was “accepting for investigation” the NAACP’s complaint along with the Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights and the Office of External Civil Rights Compliance.

“The Complaint alleges that MDH and MDEQ discriminated against the majority Black population of the City of Jackson on the basis of race in their funding of water infrastructure and treatment programs and activities, in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000(d) et seq., and EPA’s nondiscrimination regulation, at 40 C.F.R. Part 7,” the letter says.

Even when Jackson residents have running water, they often experience prolonged boil water orders, such as the one that began a month before the late August water failures and continued until mid-September. The late-summer pump failures at the O.B. Curtis water treatment plant came amid flooding from the Pearl River. In early 2021,

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