Micheal Regan, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, visited Jackson on Monday and got a first-hand look at Jackson’s water woes. Jackson was the first stop for Regan who is visiting southern cities to promote the recently signed federal infrastructure bill. The bill will send $459 million to Mississippi to fund water improvements.
Before Regan’s meeting with the press, the City of Jackson issued another in a long string of boil water notices. This one, officials said, stemmed from what they believe was a bad batch of chemicals added to clean the water. Several JPS schools, including Wilkins Elementary where Regan visited, were experiencing low water pressure or no water at all.
Regan says he has been working with Mayor Chokwe Lumumba to figure out improvements.
“The real issue has been resources, and now that the president has passed the bipartisan infrastructure deal, we will have adequate resources to really invest in our infrastructure so that every person in this country can access safe, affordable, clean drinking water,” Regan said. “The issues that Jackson faces are issues that many communities across this country face – disproportionately in areas where we have Black and Brown, and tribal communities.”
With over 71,000 water connections in Jackson, safety has become a concern. Regan also toured the O.B Curtis Water treatment plant. In March, the plant was shut down for over a month after two winter storms froze equipment. Regan says the infrastructure bill will give more resources but that Jackson would have to be “creative” in how they spend their resources.
“With all of those resources, in concert with stronger relationships with our state and local officials, we will be better able to leverage those resources to tackle the shortfalls,” he said. “This is a shot in the arm. It’s a down payment, but it’s a huge opportunity for public-private partnerships.”
Jackson is currently still under a boil water notice and workers are getting the system back online. Officials said Tuesday that the issue had been resolved but storage tanks had been drained. The earliest that the system could get back up and running is Thursday and only after two positive tests from the health department.