U.S. Justice Department Threatens Legal Action in Jackson Water Crisis

JACKSON, Miss.—The U.S. Department of Justice is seeking an enforceable agreement with the City of Jackson to address multiple violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act, many resulting from long-standing deficiencies at O.B. Curtis, Jackson’s primary water treatment plant.

“The United States also believes that an imminent and substantial endangerment to human health exists, as evidenced by the roughly 300 boil water notices that have been issued over the past two years, the multiple line breaks during that same time period, and the recent drinking water crisis where most City residents did not have access to running water for many days,” Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim, of the DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, wrote in a Sep. 26 letter.

Without a mutual agreement between the regulator and the capital city, the federal agency may pursue legal action against the city to bring its water system in compliance with health and safety standards.

Read the U.S. Department of Justice’s full letter to the City of Jackson here.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan was on the ground in Mississippi again yesterday, speaking with Jackson Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba and faith leaders at New Hope Baptist Church in Jackson. In contrast to the serious tone of the Department of Justice’s letter to Jackson, Regan and Lumumba expressed an interest in collaboration to address the water crisis in brief statements prior to the closed door meeting with clergy.

“After years of neglect, Jackson’s water system finally reached a breaking point … leaving tens of thousands of people without running water. These conditions, I believe we all can agree, are unacceptable in these United States of America,” Regan said.

Lumumba praised the EPA for its collaboration with the capital city. “I trust administrator Regan,” he said. “I thank him for  bringing forward a vision for the EPA that isn’t merely about its regulatory function, which is valued and necessary, but also an understanding of what communities are really facing and what we need.”

Regan expressed hopes for a “transparent process.”

“We all know that there are compliance challenges with the City of Jackson,” Regan said

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