EPA administrator stops in Jackson for the fourth time in twelve months to talk water

Published: Nov. 15, 2022 at 10:55 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Tuesday, the EPA administrator made his fourth stop in Jackson to talk about the ongoing water crisis.

His visit comes just one week before the state of emergency ends.

Administrator Michael Regan and Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba took questions on everything from how the city can restore confidence in the drinking water to the inclusion of minority businesses in water contracts.

However, I took the opportunity to ask about what’s in the immediate future, and that’s how prepared the city’s water system is for the coldest months of the year.

“We are vulnerable,” Lumumba said. “I don’t want to give any false hope to our residents.”

The mayor and administrator spoke on one accord during a roundtable meeting hosted by Jackson State University. The location was no coincidence, as areas of JSU’s campus saw little to no water pressure just last week.

Both men agree that the city’s water system is still in a fragile state but also a much better state than it was several months ago.

“The full winterization of our water treatment facility has not been accomplished. There are winterization projects that predated the emergency that are nearing completion, and we can see the end of that,” Lumumba said. “But there are several other components of our water treatment facility that desire and are in desperate need of winterization.”

Lumumba and Regan said the team in place to address Jackson’s water crisis is stronger than it has ever been.

The administrator said the state, city, EPA, and Department of Justice are all at the table working on an agreement to bring the Capital City’s water system in compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act.

It’s an agreement that Regan and Lumumba are staying tight-lipped about.

“Once we reach an agreement, that agreement will go to the city council, the city council will vote on it, then it comes back to the mayor, the mayor will sign off on it, and then the Department of Justice will file that agreement with the federal court,” Regan said.

Regan added that the EPA wants to hold more meetings like Tuesdays so that everybody has a seat at the table.

“Jackson, Mississippi is the perfect example of what the President had in mind when he pushed for the bipartisan infrastructure law,” he said. “If we are successful in our partnership with the state of Mississippi and with the city of Jackson, we believe we can use that as a model for other communities all across the country.”

As for the agreement Regan was referring to, the city attorney said the city council should have something to look at by Thursday.

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