Jackson, MS, July 21, 2023 – Along with two days of testimony before a federal court last week, several Jackson-based community groups and residents submitted a Community Statement to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding the city’s water crisis. They also shared the statement with the judge during last week’s hearing in United States v. City of Jackson. Judge Henry T. Wingate has said he will offer a response sometime today.
The groups submitted the Community Statement to a public portal opened by the U.S. Department of Justice, which represents the EPA, in March 2023. The portal requests residents to share their written concerns and proposed solutions regarding the water crisis that has plagued the capital for decades. Copies of the Community Statement were also submitted to the City of Jackson as well as the federal court.
Community leaders Danyelle Holmes of the Poor People’s Campaign Mississippi and Rukia Lumumba of the People’s Advocacy Institute summarized points from the Community Statement for the judge last week, including proposed long-term solutions to the current crisis such as more communication from JXN Water – the company formed by the court-appointed temporary third-party manager of the water system – to residents regarding the process to fix the water system, boil water notices for safe drinking as recommended by the Mississippi Department of Health, collection of resident input and engagement in the repair and rebuilding of the water system and new billing system, access for residents to educational resources about water quality, and immediate access to alternative water sources (such as water filters, water testing kits, bottled water, etc.) during periods of water shortages or maintenance that prevents residents from safely using their tap water.
Danyelle Holmes of Poor People’s Campaign Mississippi said, “We still hold fast to our position, Jackson residents have a right to safe drinking water and neither EPA nor JXN Water have shown that our water is safe. According to the EPA, lead exposure may cause health problems ranging from stomach distress to brain damage. No amount of lead is safe for residents to consume. EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Act standards are not fully health protective and also Interim Third-Party Manager Ted Henefin’s position that Jackson’s water is safe for all is undermined by his reports of two new violations of federal drinking water standards. We believe that every citizen deserves access to clean and safe drinking water and every resident has a right to live and not to be in fear of dying or becoming deathly ill due to unclean and unsafe drinking water.”
“We hope the judge heard residents in court last week and that he will continue listening. We can only fix these problems by working together, with our residents’ health and safety as the top priority,” said Brooke Floyd, Jackson resident and Co-Director of the JXN People’s Assembly at the People’s Advocacy Institute.
The city’s water system, which is currently under the control of JXN water and the third-party manager, has had two new health violations related to the water since last week’s hearing, and community members believe that report would not have come out without pressure from residents.
People’s Advocacy Institute and the Poor People’s Campaign Mississippi are represented by Forward Justice, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the ACLU of Mississippi.
Read the full community statement and recommendations here.
The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.