In late August of this year, Jackson, Mississippi, was hit with heavy rains which led to flooding across the Pearl River. The flooding left 150,000 residents in Jackson without water for days.
Last week, the city was finally able to get water flowing from the faucet. However, Jackson is still lacking safe drinking water. A video surfaced on the internet of brown water coming from the faucets and the city is now in its sixth week of a boil-water advisory from the state health department.
This has been no surprise for Mississippi’s capital city. Jackson has been dealing with its aging water system for years. The Environmental Protection Agency informed city leaders that its water system violated the federal Safe Drinking Water Act months ago and is investigating the issue.
Just like many other cities, Jackson can’t afford to fix its water supply. Its water plants suffer from old, leaking pipes and low staffing. It needs over a billion dollars to fully fix its water system, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said in an interview with WLBT.
We have seen a similar type of problem before in Flint, Michigan. A predominantly Black city with an ongoing water issue, they have been without clean water since 2014 when they discovered there were lead and Legionella bacteria in the water.
Jackson has an 80% Black population with a quarter of that population living in poverty. It surely won’t be the last city to experience a faulty water system.
Places like Las Vegas, Honolulu, Baltimore, and the Rio Grande Valley are also experiencing blatant environmental prejudices in their cities. Similar to Jackson, the infrastructure is outdated, there is a lack of funds being allocated to help fix the pipes, and environmental issues such as extreme heat resulted in forest fires that have tainted reservoirs.
When cities begin to shift from predominantly white neighborhoods to predominantly Black neighborhoods, the funds also shift with them. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, cities experiencing poor water access or having poor water systems are in predominantly Black or Hispanic communities.
Infrastructure issues today stem from the lack of investment in the water systems over the last few decades. Instead of trying to take on the issue when it was present, officials waited until the damage was irreversible, and now the human right to something as simple as running and clean water has been stripped from these communities.