President Biden on Tuesday announced his administration was sending $115 million in funding to repair the water infrastructure in Jackson, Miss., where long-standing issues in the system have plagued the city for years and left residents last summer without running water for days.
The funding is the first piece of a broader $600 million earmarked for Jackson’s water crisis that Congress approved in December as part of the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill to fund the government through most of this year.
Jackson’s long-neglected water infrastructure had already meant “the constant threat of boil water orders” for the residents in Mississippi’s capital city, Biden noted Tuesday. But Jackson’s water crisis reached a critical point last summer when extreme flooding caused the city’s main water treatment plant to fail.
The plant shutdown meant that the city’s 150,000 residents – most of whom are Black – were left without running water for several weeks, relying on bottled water to drink, bathe, cook and even flush the toilets. In December, below-freezing temperatures caused a mystery “invisible leak” that once again left residents without running water. Meanwhile, city leaders blamed state officials for the years of underfunding that they said had led to the string of emergencies.
“For years, the people of Jackson, Mississippi, have suffered the consequences of aging water infrastructure,” Biden said in a statement Tuesday. “All Americans deserve access to clean, safe drinking water. That’s why I directed my Administration to make sure the people of Jackson have the resources they need and deserve.”
The $600 million approved by Congress last year includes $450 million for capital projects to improve Jackson’s water system and $150 million for technical assistance. At a Homeland Security Committee hearing focused on water infrastructure last fall, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle had expressed concern about Jackson’s water crisis and emphasized the need for longer-term solutions there.
Biden credited Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) for advocating for his constituents and noted his administration has been sending resources to improve water systems in communities around the country to stave off other potential emergencies.
“While we have made a lot of progress, there is much more work to do to ensure that all Americans have access to clean water,” Biden said. “Until all our children can safely drink water from the tap, our fight for clean water must, and will, continue.”