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Jackson Water Crisis Update: March 2024

March 21, 2024

IMPORTANT MILESTONE IN FIGHT FOR SAFE DRINKING WATER: MISSISSIPPI POOR PEOPLE’S CAMPAIGN AND PEOPLE’S ADVOCACY INSTITUTE GRANTED INTERVENTION IN FEDERAL LAWSUIT

A Major Step Toward Ensuring Transparency and Accountability on the Management of Jackson’s Water System.

 

Jackson, MS – After months of public advocacy, legal challenges, and community mobilization, a federal court granted Mississippi Poor People’s Campaign and the People’s Advocacy Institute intervention in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) lawsuit that resulted in the de facto takeover of Jackson's water system. Being granted intervention means they are now an official party to the lawsuit and have a voice in the proceedings. The lawsuit, brought against the City of Jackson by the EPA for violations of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, dramatically shifted residents’ access to information and say about the direction of their water system. The groups believe that this victory marks a crucial step toward the transparent, equitable, and community-centered management of Jackson’s water system.

 

The judge granted intervention during a status conference on March 18, 2024, after briefly hearing arguments on the unopposed motion filed by the intervenors’ legal team, which is composed of Forward Justice, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the ACLU of Mississippi. This achievement follows almost six months of steadfast advocacy, involving relentless demands for data transparency, conducted with the additional support of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

 

Danyelle Holmes, Sr. National Social Justice Organizer/Field Team Lead of the Mississippi Poor People’s Campaign, said: “This moment signifies a pivotal shift in the fight for clean water and the restoration of public oversight of Jackson's decaying and dangerous water infrastructure. Water is life. Communities must have a say over the critical matters in our lives. And we are committed to ensuring the community is heard by any means necessary.  Mississippi Poor People’s Campaign’s mission is to protect the community from all special interest agendas, businesses, or organizations that seek to rob and starve Jacksonians of their resources and assets by their tax dollars as well as ensuring that poor and low-income folks are no longer ignored, dismissed, or pushed to the margins, to overcome the legacy of systemic racism, poverty, and ecological devastation. MS-PPC’s and its supporters’ health and economic interests in this litigation and in the Jackson water crisis more broadly therefore cannot be overstated: our interests as community members and community leaders have been negatively impacted for decades by the lack of access to clean water to drink, eat, bathe in, cook, clean, and flush toilets, among other daily tasks. The lack of clean drinking water affects MS-PPC’s and its supporters’ economic interests, health, and mental well-being. The outcome of this litigation will impact the Jackson community’s access to safe drinking water for decades to come. MS-PPC’s and its supporters’ voices, as well as the voices of residents they represent, are necessary in building a sustainable and just water and sewer infrastructure for the City of Jackson, and we look forward to joining this lawsuit as plaintiffs along with the People’s Advocacy Institute.”

This campaign, built on the foundational support of the Mississippi Rapid Response Coalition, has fought hard to respond to the immediate needs of Jackson’s residents while developing a platform for systemic reform. From distributing emergency water supplies in the wake of the 2021 winter storm that collapsed the public water system to engaging in legal action and public advocacy, their united efforts have focused on ensuring transparency and accountability to the Jackson community.Brooke Floyd, Co-director of the JXN People’s Assembly, expressed the collective determination of the involved parties: “We are here to ensure community voices are heard. We believe in the wisdom and power of our people living with these issues. We have insight and we have solutions. We won't solve these problems without working together. This intervention is about making sure we have a seat at the table. Nothing about us without us.”

“The intervention not only grants these organizations access to directly participate in the lawsuit as parties, it also sets a precedent for community involvement in the governance of essential public services,” said Mikaila Hernández, Bertha Justice Fellow and attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights. “It represents a step toward rectifying decades of underinvestment and neglect in Jackson’s water system. This step forward is only the beginning. Jackson residents are prepared to stand and fight, and we remain committed to supporting this effort for the long haul.”

For more on the case, visit this case page. For more information on our campaign partners, visit their respective websites:

Poor People’s Campaign

People’s Advocacy Institute

Center for Constitutional Rights

ACLU of Mississippi