The EPA reporting was critical: The report stated that Jackson’s water treatment plants were being mismanaged, had routine equipment failures, and that improper staffing of key employees to monitor water treatment could lead to water contamination. The report also said that plant conditions presented imminent and substantial endangerment to the people served by the system. One of the primary concerns was that of turbidity and improper disinfection treatment within the system as this shortcoming has the potential for the presence of E. coli in the water.
At the root of the challenges in Jackson are decades of underinvestment in a sprawling water system made up of roughly 1,500 miles of water mains, some of which are over 100 years old. In 2013, the city sought to overhaul the system through a $90 million contract with Siemens to upgrade sewer lines, upgrade water-treatment plants, and to install a new water-sewer billing system for residents. But the deal brought myriad new issues for the city, including the installation of incorrect water meters that measured water use in gallons instead of cubic feet. In the years following the installation, some residents received exorbitant bills for months of water use at a time, while others were not billed at all. At one point, city officials advised residents to simply pay what they thought they owed, but unpaid bills would eventually strain Jackson's ability to address the water system issues. The city ultimately sued Siemens and several local subcontractors for $450 million in damages, reaching an $89.8 million settlement in 2020.
The Mayor of Jackson has estimated that modernizing the city's infrastructure could cost as much as $2 billion. Mississippi received $75 million from the federal infrastructure bill signed by President Biden last year for water and sewage needs, but that money is for the entire state, not Jackson alone.
On July 1, 2021, the EPA and the City of Jackson reached an agreement (https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-and-city-jackson-mississippi-reach-agreement-improve-drinking-water-and-protect) to improve drinking water and protect public health.
Contact Info for the Mayor of Jackson, Chokwe A. Lumumba:
Contact Jackson Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba
Contact Info for Bennie G. Thompson, U.S Representative for Mississippi's 2nd District (includes Jackson):
Contact Congressman Bennie G. Thompson
Contact Info Mississippi State Elected Officials:
Contact Mississippi State Elected Officials