Federal attorneys agree to pause litigation for water violations in Mississippi’s capital

May 17, 2023, 2:37 PM

FILE - Attorney General Merrick Garland, center, listens at a news conference about the Justice Dep...

FILE - Attorney General Merrick Garland, center, listens at a news conference about the Justice Department's intervention to try to bring improvements to the beleaguered water system in Jackson, Miss., at the Justice Department in Washington on Nov. 30, 2022. Attorneys for the federal government, Mississippi and the state's capital city have agreed to request a stay on litigation from a complaint filed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that said the city wasn’t meeting standards for providing reliable drinking water, a Wednesday, May 17, 2023, court filing shows. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Attorneys for the federal government, Mississippi and the state’s capital city have agreed to request to delay litigation from a complaint filed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that said the city wasn’t meeting standards for providing reliable drinking water.

In a Wednesday court filing, Government attorneys asked for a six-month stay, which would be the second such order. It’s part of a broader federal push to fix Jackson’s water system, which nearly collapsed last summer and continues to have problems with broken pipes and leaks.

In November, the Justice Department filed a complaint on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, arguing that Jackson has failed to provide drinking water reliably compliant with the Safe Drinking Water Act. An agreement between federal officials and the city put that litigation on hold for six months.

U.S. District Court Judge Henry Wingate then appointed Ted Henifin, who spent 15 years managing a sanitation district in Virginia, to manage Jackson’s water system on an interim basis.

The situation in Jackson required the Justice Department to respond with the “greatest possible urgency,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said after Justice Department announced it would intervene to help improve the water system.

“We realize how horrible the circumstances are there,” Garland said. “It’s hard to imagine not being able to turn on a tap and get safe drinking water.”

Like many American cities, Jackson struggles with aging infrastructure with water lines that crack or collapse. But the problems deepened in late August when most of the city lost running water for several days after heavy rainfall exacerbated problems at the city’s main water treatment plant.

Residents had already experienced periodic boil-water advisories for years. Inspections revealed the water didn’t meet safety standards.

Officials in the Democratic-led city say the city’s water problems come from decades of deferred maintenance and underfunding. Republican state leaders say the problems stem from mismanagement at the city level.

If Judge Henry Wingate approves the stay, it will be extended until November 29, 2023. Before that, attorneys would be required to file a joint report that says whether they believe an additional stay is appropriate.

On May 9, Wingate said he also plans on placing Jackson’s sewer system under Henifin’s authority. The city agreed to enter a consent decree in 2012 with the EPA to prevent the overflow of raw sewage and bring the city into compliance with the Clean Water Act.

Henifin, who was appointed in November 2022, has said he planned to spend one year managing Jackson’s water system.


Michael Goldberg is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mikergoldberg.

National News

Associated Press

Trump indicted in classified documents case in a historic first for a former president

MIAMI (AP) — mishandling classified documents at his Florida estate, a remarkable development that makes him the first former president in U.S. history to face criminal charges by the federal government that he once oversaw. The Justice Department was expected to make public a seven-count indictment ahead of a historic court appearance next week in […]

21 hours ago

Associated Press

Louisiana governor says he intends to veto anti-LGBTQ+ bills including ban on gender-affirming care

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, said Thursday he intends to veto a package of bills passed by the GOP-dominated legislature that targets the LGBTQ+ community, including a ban on gender-affirming care for transgender minors and the state’s version of a “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Edwards has said throughout […]

21 hours ago

FILE - Attorney General Merrick Garland announces Jack Smith as special counsel to oversee the Just...

Associated Press

Trump indicted: What to know about the documents case and what’s next

Donald Trump’s indictment on charges of mishandling classified documents at his Florida estate has brought renewed attention to one of the most notable cases in Justice Department history. The federal charges represent the biggest legal jeopardy so far for Trump, coming less than three months after he was charged in New York with 34 felony […]

21 hours ago

FILE - President Donald Trump sits at his desk after a meeting with Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, left,...

Associated Press

Live updates | Trump Classified Documents Indictment

MIAMI (AP) — Follow along for live updates on indicted on charges of mishandling classified documents at his Florida estate. The Justice Department did not immediately publicly confirm the indictment. ___ What to know: — Signs that Trump could face criminal charges began to pile up this month — Who is Jack Smith, the special […]

21 hours ago

Associated Press

Lawyers blame ChatGPT for tricking them into citing bogus case law

NEW YORK (AP) — Two apologetic lawyers responding to an angry judge in Manhattan federal court blamed ChatGPT Thursday for tricking them into including fictitious legal research in a court filing. Attorneys Steven A. Schwartz and Peter LoDuca are facing possible punishment over a filing in a lawsuit against an airline that included references to […]

21 hours ago

A Corsi-Rosenthal air purifier built by Liz Hradil is seen at her home in Syracuse, N.Y. after the ...

Associated Press

Social media helps invent, then circulate info on DIY air purifiers amid wildfire smoke

NEW YORK (AP) — Social media users are sharing a surprisingly effective way to protect yourself indoors from the toxic wildfire smoke blanketing much of the East Coast: a box fan, four air filters and a whole lot of duct tape. As searches for “air purifiers” spike on Google, people are posting on TikTok and […]

21 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Emergency preparedness...

Emergency planning for the worst-case scenario

What would you do if you woke up in the middle of the night and heard an intruder in your kitchen? West Coast Armory North can help.

Innovative Education...

The Power of an Innovative Education

Parents and students in Washington state have the power to reimagine the K-12 educational experience through Insight School of Washington.

Medicare fraud...

If you’re on Medicare, you can help stop fraud!

Fraud costs Medicare an estimated $60 billion each year and ultimately raises the cost of health care for everyone.

Men's Health Month...

Men’s Health Month: Why It’s Important to Speak About Your Health

June is Men’s Health Month, with the goal to raise awareness about men’s health and to encourage men to speak about their health.

Internet Washington...

Major Internet Upgrade and Expansion Planned This Year in Washington State

Comcast is investing $280 million this year to offer multi-gigabit Internet speeds to more than four million locations.

Compassion International...

Brock Huard and Friends Rally Around The Fight for First Campaign

Professional athletes are teaming up to prevent infant mortality and empower women at risk in communities facing severe poverty.

Federal attorneys agree to pause litigation for water violations in Mississippi’s capital