A Pot Of Unspent Federal Money Could Have Prevented Jackson’s Water Crisis

"A new report surfaces a trail of red flags that the EPA didn’t raise."

"Late in the summer of 2022, the Environmental Protection Agency sent the Mississippi state government a routine report assessing its use of federal funding for water infrastructure. The agency concluded with the words “no findings” — that is, the EPA found no issue with how Mississippi was spending its money.

The very next day, on August 29, as many as 180,000 residents in the Jackson area lost access to clean drinking water and Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves and Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba both declared a state of emergency.

More than 12 inches of rain had fallen across the region, causing the Pearl River, which begins about 75 miles northeast of Jackson and flows south to the Gulf Coast, to flood. Jackson’s main water treatment plant was overrun. Water pressure throughout the system plunged, leaving residents — along with hospitals and fire stations — without safe drinking water. Many homes had no water at all. Images of the National Guard distributing cases of bottled water to residents in miles-long queues flashed across screens. Contrary to the EPA’s conclusion, now public in a new report by researchers at the Project for Government Oversight, or POGO, the state’s capital was one heavy rainfall away from a public health crisis that captured the attention of the nation. "

Lylla Younes reports for Grist May 23, 2024.

Source: Grist, 05/29/2024