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DOJ reaches agreement, files new complaint against Jackson, Mississippi, over water crisis

(JACKSON, Miss.) — The U.S. Department of Justice has reached an agreement and filed a new complaint with Jackson, Mississippi, over the city’s alleged mismanagement of its water system.

Through its agreement with the City of Jackson, the DOJ will establish a third-party monitor to ensure that water in the city is safe to drink.

Historic flooding in Mississippi in August damaged a major pump at the O.B. Curtis Water Plant, Jackson’s main water treatment facility, which left around 150,000 of the city’s mostly Black residents without drinkable water.

The water shortage forced residents to line up on streets and highways throughout Jackson to pick up water at distribution sites.

In a separate complaint, the Justice Department alleges the city mismanaged the water system, arguing the city has failed to provide drinking water that is reliably compliant with the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) to the system’s customers.

“Today, the Justice Department is taking action in federal court to address long-standing failures in the city of Jackson’s public drinking water system,” Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said in a statement. “The Department of Justice takes seriously its responsibility to keep the American people safe and to protect their civil rights.

The most recent water crisis highlighted residents’ years-long plight with the city’s ongoing water issues and raised questions about how Jackson came to be in this situation.

Following the crisis, the Environmental Protection Agency, the DOJ and city officials have been working on reaching a “judicially enforceable solution” to “deliver safe and reliable drinking water for the people of Jackson,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said during an update earlier this month.

“We are moving with a sense of urgency,” Regan said.

On Nov. 17, the Jackson City Council approved an interim agreement with the EPA outlining actions the city must take to comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Mississippi is set to receive more than $26 million in State Revolving Funds (SRF) this year, which is on top of the $30 million it received in 2021 for Jackson, Eagan said during a Sept. 7 press conference.

The state funds help public water systems bankroll the costs of infrastructure projects needed to reach or maintain compliance set under the SDWA.

Last year, the EPA announced that Mississippi would get nearly $75 million for water infrastructure projects, as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which President Joe Biden signed in November 2021.

Over the next five years, Mississippi is expected to receive $400 million through the law, Eagan said.

ABC News’ Meredith Deliso contributed to this report

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