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Mississippi Finds No Racial Discrimination Against Jackson in Water Infrastructure Funds

Two Mississippi state agencies did not racially discriminate against the City of Jackson in how they spent money for water infrastructure projects, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency investigation found. The investigation began after civil rights groups filed complaints.

The EPA’s report on Monday specifically said that neither the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality nor the Mississippi Department of Health violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in their allocation of federal funds for the capital city’s water infrastructure.

“OECRC found insufficient evidence of a relationship between the amount of funding disbursed by MSDH to Jackson and the racial composition of the community over time, and insufficient evidence of a relationship between the racial composition of communities receiving funds versus those not receiving funds,” the EPA told MSDH in a summary of it findings.

Both agencies acknowledged the determination in statements to the Mississippi Free Press. NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Director Abre’ Conner told the Mississippi Free Press in a May 9 interview that the conclusions were disappointing, but that the recommendations validated part of the NAACP’s complaint.

“It’s unfortunate that the EPA decided not to trust the voices of the residents,” Conner said. “But the EPA issuing these recommendations to the state is a huge deal. They mention that the way the (funds) are handed out is a problem. We’re curious to see if the governor and the agencies are going to consider changing it.”

‘We Thought the Legislature Would Be Inclined to Help’

The NAACP and others filed the racial discrimination complaint against the public health agencies on Sept. 27, 2022, asking the EPA to investigate their allocation of federal funds meant for the water infrastructure fixes in majority-Black Jackson. The complaint followed the height of the Jackson water crisis when residents went weeks without access to safe running water.

“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,”

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