‘Rebuild The Trust’: City of Jackson Approves EPA Order to Stabilize System

JACKSON, Miss.—The City of Jackson has approved an agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency to address the city’s ongoing water crisis, providing a legal framework to address its violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act and stabilize its water system after two consecutive years of ongoing disruptions.

The Jackson City Council approved the “interim stipulated order” on Oct. 17 in an executive session, shortly after a roundtable discussion involving EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan, Jackson Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba, an a number of city stakeholders at Jackson State University.

The Jackson City Council approved an order to stabilize Jackson’s water system on Oct. 18, 2022. A federal court will sign off on its contents and return it to Jackson in the coming days. Photo by Nick Judin

“We all have a desire to reach a judicially enforceable agreement, approved by and overseen by federal court, that ensures a sustainable water system for the long term,” Regan said at the roundtable. “As we rebuild the infrastructure here in Jackson, we’re also trying to rebuild the trust that the community has in its government.”

Order Private Until After Thanksgiving

All parties have thus far declined to share critical details of the plan that will compel Jackson moving forward. Now that that City has formally agreed to the order, it is a public document. But City Attorney Catoria Martin explained that the City would need seven business days to “scrub the document” of “confidential watermarks.” The Mississippi Free Press has requested a copy of the order in full. 

Of particular concern is the possibility for new management over the capital city’s water system. EPA leadership up to and including Regan have expressed a desire for Jackson to maintain ultimate sovereignty over its water system, but some form of temporary, external management is a near-certainty.

The shape and dimensions of that third-party leadership must wait for the document’s full release. Regan explained that, following the City Council approval of the plan, the U.S. Department of Justice will send the order to a federal court to finalize it.

EPA Director Michael S. Regan would not

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