Jackson, Mississipi’s capital is home to a population that is more than 80% Black, with about 25% of residents living in poverty. The city has been plagued with water issues ranging from pressure, hot tap water, and lead poisoning. Just last February, artic weather hit and water froze at a Jackson treatment plant. People had no running water and the National Guard had to called in to distribute water to citizens along with volunteers.
According to a report by AP News, this has been a persistent problem that shows no signs of getting better. Owner and stylist Belinda Smith was interviewed as she has had to store gallons of water because pipes will get shut off with no warning:
“I have been in here and they will turn off the water without letting me know,” Smith said Wednesday. “You don’t want to get into a situation where you didn’t fill your bottles back up.”
The EPA issued a notice this week that Jackson’s system violates the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. They have also ordered the city to outline a plan to “correct the significant deficiencies identified” in an EPA report within 45 days. A lead-and-copper report based on water quality in Jackson is even more alarming–stating lead levels were “above the action level in 2015.”
AP spoke to another Jackson resident named Sybil Smith about how her family avoids drinking tap water:
Sybil Smith lives in south Jackson, the part of the city most likely to have water pressure problems because it’s far from the treatment plants. She said Wednesday that she worries that the city water might harm her and her family.
“Personally, I don’t drink it,” said Sybil Smith, a retired hospital employee who’s not related to Belinda Smith at the hair salon.
Sybil Smith said she and her husband typically keep several cases of bottled water stockpiled in their home. During the cold snap last February, they had no running water for a few days and low pressure for many more.
Vice President Kamala Harris has made replacing lead lines across the country a priority as a product of the bipartisan infrastructure act passed into law. EPA Administrator Michael Regan visited Mississippi in November, including making a stop at a school that was closed due to lack of running water.
Deterorating water quality have long been plaguing communities of color like Flint, Michigan–who just came to a settlement. However, the citizens feel like it did not cover the physical toll the pollution did for years. We still have a long way to go in this country when it comes to clean water access.