Good news for a Mississippi city that can use some: The Biden administration and the Environmental Protection Agency announced that, after decades of disrepair, Jackson's broken water system is getting $115 million in federal funds.
It's the first disbursement of a promised $600 million boost from Washington designed to fix the Mississippi capital city's embattled water supply system.
"As you all may remember, the city's water system was in crisis at some point last summer — and even long before then, the people of Jackson have lived under constant threat of boil water orders," said Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary.
Jackson's water problems have included broken and busted pipes, leaks and boil water notices that have severely threatened local businesses and residents for decades.
Last year, after heavy rains taxed the system's failing pumps, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves affirmed the treatment plant was on the verge of failure. Many residents waited in long lines for clean water to drink, cook, bathe and clean with.
"We've been begging and talking about this with individuals and leadership at the state of Mississippi, from the governor to the lieutenant governor, and we've had the door closed on us," said Democratic state Rep. Christopher Bell. "And it took the president of the United States and members of Congress to see and hear our plea."
The feds appointed a third-party water manager, Ted Henifin, to oversee repairs on the decades-old infrastructure — and, on top of that, the city's outstanding debt of $280 million on the water system.
Radhika Fox, the EPA assistant administrator for water, says the initial $115 million investment will help provide "a long-needed stability to the people of Jackson" — roughly a quarter of whom live in poverty.
"About 50% of the water that goes to the Jackson water system goes out and leaks. So, we're going to be able to resolve that. We're going to be able to make additional investments into the operation and maintenance of the systems, and what's so exciting is that this is the first installment of $600 million that the Biden-Harris administration will be putting in to really rebuild the Jackson water system," said Fox.
Though there's a long road ahead to update the city's old water system and treatment plant, Fox says the people of Jackson are already seeing the benefits of the work.
"We have been able to make improvements in the operation and maintenance of the water treatment plant, which was the source of the water crisis, where people were without water for many, many days," said Fox.
Local lawmakers like state Rep. Chris Bell say they're confident the investments and ongoing operations will help revitalize the troubled city.
"We're just looking forward to getting our economy up and running. It will jumpstart our economy. We won't have to listen to the bad news of Jackson's dirty water or busted pipes and things of that nature. So we're again eternally thankful for what they've done," said Bell.
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