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Feds want a manager to oversee the troubled water system in Jackson, Mississippi

JACKSON, Miss. — The federal authorities filed a proposal Tuesday to nominate a supervisor for the troubled water system in Mississippi’s capital metropolis, which almost collapsed in late summer time and continues to wrestle.

The Justice Division mentioned in a information launch that the proposal is supposed to be an interim measure whereas the federal authorities, the town of Jackson and the Mississippi State Division of Well being attempt to negotiate a judicially enforceable consent decree. The aim is to attain long-term sustainability of the system and the town’s compliance with the Secure Ingesting Water Act and different legal guidelines.

The town and the state well being division have signed the proposal, which wants approval of a federal decide.

The Justice Division on Tuesday additionally filed a grievance on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Safety Company in opposition to Jackson, alleging that the town has failed to supply ingesting water that’s reliably compliant with the Secure Ingesting Water Act. In response to the settlement, that litigation might be placed on maintain for six months whereas all events attempt to enhance the water system.

Edward “Ted” Henifin was appointed as interim third-party supervisor of the Jackson water system and Water Sewer Enterprise Administration, the town’s water billing division. A web based profile of Henifin says he’s a registered skilled engineer who served 15 years as normal supervisor of the Hampton Roads Sanitation District in Virginia. Earlier than that, he served as director of public works for the town of Hampton, Virginia.

The proposal lists 13 tasks that Henifin might be tasked with implementing. The tasks are supposed to enhance the water system’s near-term stability, based on a information launch. Among the many most urgent priorities is a winterization mission to make the system much less weak. A chilly snap in 2021 left tens of 1000’s of individuals in Jackson with out operating water after pipes froze.

Lawyer Common Merrick B. Garland mentioned within the information launch that the Justice Division is “taking motion in federal courtroom to deal with long-standing failures within the metropolis of Jackson’s public ingesting water system.”

“The Division of Justice takes severely its duty to maintain the American folks protected and to guard their civil rights,” Garland mentioned. “Along with our companions at EPA, we are going to proceed to hunt justice for the residents of Jackson, Mississippi. And we are going to proceed to prioritize circumstances within the communities most burdened by environmental hurt.”

EPA Administrator Michael Regan, who has been to Jackson 4 instances prior to now 12 months, mentioned the Justice Division’s motion “marks a essential second on the trail to securing clear, protected water for Jackson residents,″ including that he’s grateful to Garland for appearing rapidly on the town’s water disaster.

“Over the previous 12 months, I’ve had the privilege to spend time with folks on the bottom in Jackson — many who’ve struggled with entry to protected and dependable water for years,″ Regan mentioned. “I pledged that EPA would do all the things in its energy to make sure the folks of Jackson have clear and reliable water, now and into the long run. Whereas there’s way more work forward, the Justice Division’s motion marks a essential second on the trail to securing clear, protected water for Jackson residents.″

Jackson has had water issues for many years. A lot of the metropolis misplaced operating water for a number of days after heavy rainfall exacerbated issues on the metropolis’s principal water remedy plant in late August. When that occurred, Jackson had already been underneath a boil-water advisory for a month as a result of well being inspectors had discovered cloudy water that would make folks sick.

The boil-water advisory was lifted in mid-September, however many individuals stay skeptical about water high quality.

About 80% of Jackson’s 150,000 residents are Black, and a few quarter of the inhabitants lives in poverty.

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