Alicia Dye | News Editor
Sept. 8, 2022
Just when you think the news wouldn’t be filled with talks of water crises, especially after Flint, Mich., the state of Mississippi proves you wrong.
Jackson, the capital of Mississippi, has been under another boil water advisory since Aug. 29, and it still hasn’t ended. This is not the first time the city has had a number of issues over the last year, including pipes that froze and left thousands without running water. Broken water and sewer pipes are common in Jackson, according to The Washington Post.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) told Jackson that the water system violates the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, which resulted in an order to improve the system in March 2020.
Yet nothing was changed, in large part due to Republican Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves, and his reluctance to work with the residents and to Democratic Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba.
Lumumba and Reeves are rarely seen together at press conferences.
The city of Jackson received $20 million for water infrastructure after the start of Joe Biden’s presidency. The Biden administration declared a state of emergency so Jackson could get federal assistance, but how much Jackson will get remains unknown.
The situation in Jackson eerily mirrors that of the Flint water crisis, which lasted more than four years, despite national outcry on fixing the crisis.
Jackson, much like Flint, is a predominantly Black city, with more than 80% of the residents being Black.
Water crises like the one in Flint and the one going on in Jackson are examples of environmental racism, and shows just how little Republicans care about Black residents, even if they live in their district.
Reeves doesn’t blame the old water system or blame the weather. He blames shoddy management for Jackson’s water issues, and still criticizes their crime rate at the same time, despite the two issues having no correlation.
If management is the issue, then why doesn’t Reeves work with Lumumba to resolve the issue? Reeves even vetoed legislation that would help residents with water bills in 2020, and didn’t sign the same bill in 2021, although it did end up becoming law in 2021.
Although Biden declared the situation an emergency, not much else has been done to help Jackson.
Does the government declaring an emergency even mean anything? Does it even help the city or state that needs it?
Political administrations, regardless of party affiliation, have failed cities and states during natural disasters and water crises.
Former President Barack Obama did not declare an emergency in Flint until 2016, two years after the crisis started. Even then, Flint received $5 million from Obama’s emergency declaration and got help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), but that could only last 90 days.
Former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder asked Obama for emergency funding under FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program, which provides housing assistance and replacement of personal property, which was denied.
The emergency was extended until August 2016 when the response was then handed back to the state of Michigan.
The water crisis in Flint is still being fixed. As of 2020, 25,042 water service lines had been excavated.
In January 2021, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced charges against Snyder, but they were later dropped due to a Michigan Supreme Court ruling that overturned the state’s use of one-man grand juries to issue indictments in the Flint water criminal cases.
Flint’s population is 57% Black.
Even some of the damage from natural disasters could’ve been prevented.
Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in August 2005. Over 1,800 people died, a majority of whom died from extreme flooding that happened during the hurricane.
It was later determined that the flooding was caused by fatal engineering flaws in the levees that surrounded the city. Who designed and built these levees? The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Both the federal and state government failed New Orleans during hurricane Katrina.
FEMA head Michael Brown and former President George W. Bush attempted to help New Orleans, but according to Brown, former Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco refused help. Blanco and her staff dispute the claim.
Even Former New Orleans Mayor Clarence Nagin faced criticism, as he did not put out the emergency evacuation order until 19 hours before Katrina made landfall. His late decision led to hundreds of deaths, as they could not find a way out of the city, and left more stranded.
New Orleans’ population is about 60% Black.
Jackson has a budget of $400 million for 2021-2022. The estimated cost to fix the water system? $2 billion.
Mississippi’s legislature is 71% white according to Mississippi Today.
History repeats itself. That’s what almost every historian says. Will the federal government step in even more to help Jackson? Will the state and local government in Mississippi start to work together to fix the water crisis?
Or, will they leave Black Jackson residents to boil water for years to come?
Is Jackson going to be the next Flint? One can only hope not.
One can only hope not.