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Mississippi agency denies NAACP’s water discrimination claim

A Mississippi environmental supervisor has denied accusations that the state agency he manages unfairly discriminated against the capital city of Jackson in its distribution of federal funds for wastewater treatment.

In a previously unknown letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality Executive Director Christopher Wells stated that the NAACP has not substantiated its claim that Jackson was discriminated against by the agency. According to him, the ongoing civil rights investigation is politically motivated.

“Jackson received a loan for every completed application it submitted,” Wells wrote. “And, because the amount of the loan is based on the cost of the project, no loans were reduced for any reason that could be considered discriminatory.”

Water service disruptions have plagued Jackson for years, and heavy rains in August 2022 exacerbated problems at the city's water treatment plant, nearly causing the system to collapse. For several days, Jackson's residents didn't have access to drinking water, cooking water, bathing water, or flushing toilets.

Wells' letter was written almost three months after the NAACP's federal complaint filed under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids federal fund recipients from discriminating against racial or ethnic minorities. Over a period of 25 years, Jackson received funds from a significant federal program only three times, according to the NAACP'S complaint. The complaint alleges that the city attempted to fund improvements itself but was repeatedly blocked by state political leaders.

The continued indifference of government officials toward communities of color like Jackson is a direct cause of environmental racism. This raises the question of whether Jackson, MS, would have had such a neglected infrastructure if it had been predominantly white.

Source: NBC News


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