By Peter Chawaga
The latest development in the saga of Jackson, Mississippi’s drinking water system has seen public officials retract their proposed solution following significant public backlash.
“Mississippi lawmakers are giving up on an effort to create a state-dominated board to oversee the troubled water system in the state’s capital city,” the Associated Press reported. “House leaders let it die without bringing it up for a vote.”
Late last year, a state of emergency was declared in Jackson as consumers indefinitely lost access to drinking water. As mistrust in public systems there grew, numerous solutions were explored to fundamentally address the systemic failures, including U.S. EPA intervention and privatization. In January, a bill was proposed that would transfer ownership to a public entity but local officials, including Jackson’s mayor, pushed back over concerns that their views wouldn’t be represented.
As decisions about the long-term future of drinking water in Jackson are delayed, however, the political battle may be overshadowing the importance of needed improvements to the system.
“I have had meetings with the governor, the lieutenant governor and the speaker (of the house) about the politics of the water system,” Ted Henifin, the current manager of the water system who took over following a court order, told the Clarion Ledger. “The fact is I don’t need to be having those meetings. I need to be getting work done. It is sad that the capital city has such a sour relationship with the state.”
While it was not immediately clear how Jackson and Mississippi expect to resolve their outstanding conflict, it seems possible that a compromise can be reached.
“In the debate over who will control the water system, Jackson may be able to keep ownership of its water system, even if control of it is taken over by a regional authority, after changes were made to the main legislative bill to regionalize the city’s troubled water system,” per the Clarion Ledger.
To read more about how water systems are operated visit Water Online’s, Asset Management Solutions Center.