EPA watchdog lays out blame in Jackson, Miss., water crisis

By Miranda Willson | 05/14/2024 01:29 PM EDT

Management woes and funding failures added to the crisis, which captured national attention and spurred concerns over racism.

Volunteers distribute cases of water.

Volunteers distribute cases of water at a community distribution site in Jackson, Mississippi, on Sept. 7, 2022. Rogelio V. Solis/AP

A watchdog report faulted both state and local government for the 2022 crisis that left Jackson, Mississippi, residents without safe drinking water and raised concerns about institutional racism in the majority Black city.

The EPA Office of Inspector General report placed blame on the capital city for failing to maintain its drinking water infrastructure and a state agency for being slow to provide much-needed support.

For years, chronic maintenance problems plagued Jackson’s O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant due to understaffing, unqualified employees and a manager who often delayed routine maintenance, according to the report.


Yet as the problems persisted, the Mississippi State Department of Health failed to provide the city with flexible and subsidized loans for drinking water needs, the audit said. Flexible loan terms are supposed to be offered to disadvantaged communities like Jackson under the Safe Drinking Water Act, but they were not made available to the capital city until June of 2021, the audit continued.