Friday, 09 Dec 2022

Jackson water crisis: Mississippi accused of intolerable racial discrimination

Jackson water crisis: Mississippi accused of intolerable racial discrimination


Jackson water crisis: Mississippi accused of intolerable racial discrimination

The NAACP filed a federal complaint on Tuesday accusing Mississippi state officials of violating civil rights law by repeatedly diverting federal funds meant for ensuring safe drinking water away from the state's predominantly Black capital, Jackson, to smaller, white communities.

Their conduct amounted to racial discrimination and a devastating loss of access to drinking water for more than a month for residents in Jackson, where more than 80% of residents are Black and a quarter are in poverty.

"The result is persistently unsafe and unreliable drinking water and massive gaps in the access to safe drinking water that are intolerable in any modern society," Jackson residents allege in the complaint. "Nearly all of the residents of Jackson have watched brackish, dirty, impure, and undrinkable water trickle from their taps. At times, some have had no water at all."

The complaint, filed to the Environmental Protection Agency, amplifies pressure on officials in Mississippi and Jackson to address longstanding water infrastructure woes that recently forced Jackson to shut down its water supply in late August and maintain a boil water notice for weeks.

Last week, a group of Jackson residents also filed a federal class-action lawsuit against current and former city and state officials as well as an engineering firm seeking monetary damages for neglect by officials.

The NAACP's complaint to the EPA, which has 25 days to decide whether to investigate it, notes that Jackson's leaders have "repeatedly requested" aid from officials in the Republican-controlled state to "provide funding solutions". Instead, "Jackson's majority-Black population has been repeatedly ignored, spurned, or ridiculed," the complaint states.

In the last 25 years, the city has received federal funds toward addressing safe drinking water just three times. At the same time, since 2016, the city has imposed more than 750 notices for residents to boil their water, roughly 40% of which came in the last two years.

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