Sep 6, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Jackson mayor rebuts Mississippi governor’s claim city failures led to water crisis

Photo of Chokwe Antar Lumumba speaking from a podium
Jackson, Miss., Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba speaks during a press conference on March 8, 2021. Photo: Michael M. Santiago via Getty Images

Jackson, Mississippi, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba on Tuesday responded to Gov. Tate Reeves' criticism of the city's water management system, which was damaged by flooding in the Pearl River and led to a crisis, upending life for the city of nearly 150,000 people.

Why it matters: Reeves had claimed that city officials failed to give the state and federal governments a plan to fix longstanding issues with the water system, and that staff in the water plant where the failure happened "had been abandoned." Lumumba is now sharing records that he says contradict Reeves' statements.

What he's saying: "We are currently producing stable pressure, but if a challenge arises with plant operation, it will likely impact customers," Lumumba said Tuesday in a press conference.

  • "When we look at the lack of water in the city of Jackson, when we look at the humiliation that our residents have suffered from, I think this is an important time to focus on that unity and not that division," he said. "That is why I have consistently avoided opportunities to take shots."
  • Lumumba shared documents, including the city's capital improvement plan from a few years ago, which he said included funding requests for the water treatment plant.
  • Another document listed a number of critical repairs and a schedule for implementation, he said.
  • He presented an outline of all the repairs needed in the water plant, which he said the city submitted to the Hinds County legislative delegation, and also showed a letter he wrote to the governor and Congress members — including Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) — after winter storms swept through the town in 2020.
  • Lumumba said he never received a response.
  • He also noted that "the residents don't really care about how we feel about each other when there's no water coming out of the tap."
  • Lumumba added that he is thankful for workers and experts who have traveled from other states to help fix the water system. "We will continue to be working in conjunction with them. We continue to be a part of the team, not only now, but moving forward."

Worth noting: Reeves said last year that Jackson needed to work harder at "collecting their water bill payments before they start going and asking everyone else to pony up more money," the Washington Post notes.

  • The Environmental Protection Agency warned days before the water system collapsed that Jackson had not made concrete efforts to hire new employees despite critical staffing shortages at the water treatment plant, the Mississippi Free Press reports.
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