Jackson Water Crisis Continues As National Attention, Help Fades Away

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Months after Jackson's water crisis made headlines, community members and activists say national attention has died down and donations and volunteers have dwindled as challenges still persist, NBC News reports.

Residents of Jackson, Mississippi's capital city that boasts a nearly 83 percent Black population, suffered a dayslong water outage after the O.B. Curtis Water Plant failed in August, calling attention and outrage to the city's outdated water infrastructure.

Due to the national attention, donations poured in and grassroots organizers were able to distribute cases of bottled water to Jackson residents.

However, five months later, organizers say resources have dried up and residents are still in need.

“The outpouring of help that took place in August, it’s way different now. I guess people burned out,” said Gino Womack, program director of the community organization Operation Good. “There are so many mixed messages about who’s to blame, what to blame, but at the end of the day, it’s the people who suffer. There’s still a fight to give people this basic necessity.”

During the summer outage, Operation Good gave out 700 cases of water in a single day to thousands of Jackson residents. But donated water and funds have "depleted quickly" and the organization hasn't been able to keep up with community demand, Womack said.

With one of the oldest water systems in the nation, Jackson routinely faces boil water notices, with residents continually citing brown water, leaking sewage, low water pressure, and elevated lead levels.

Mississippi was set to receive $429 million from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to fix its water systems, mostly through loans and grants provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, the EPA announced in October that it would investigate whether Jackson mishandled federal funds meant to help its predominantly Black residents.

The investigation followed a federal complaint filed by the NAACP in September. The organization said Mississippi officials “all but assured” a drinking water crisis in Jackson by depriving the city of funds to upgrade its infrastructure.

“Jackson’s majority-Black population has been repeatedly ignored, spurned, or ridiculed, resulting in the most recent water access inequity and crisis,” the NAACP said.

Autumn Brown, an organizer with the Cooperation Jackson community group, said it feels like city and state officials “don’t want to help Jackson.”

“What I’d like to see is us being able to get the resources we need to make the city a better place and make it livable for the people who are here,” Brown said.

Cooperation Jackson was once able to distribute hundreds of water cases each day, but now only has the resources to provide water at occasional community events.

“Whenever people hear somebody’s giving out water, the lines are still huge and long,” Brown said. “People still have needs, and the community is trying to meet it as soon as possible, but we don’t have much help from our government sources.”

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