Mississippi should rebuild infrastructure with input from residents

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For most Americans, clean water is something we take for granted. When our drinking water systems are working well, we don’t give it much thought. It’s when things go wrong that we realize that clean water, sewage treatment and flood protection are essential to our health, our livelihoods and our communities.

On August 29, 2022, at Jackson Miss., the water system slipped. After heavy rains and flooding, the city’s main pumping station collapsed, leaving 160,000 residents without access to clean water. The water issues in Jackson that have made national headlines in recent weeks have been simmering for decades. In 2012, the city of Jackson signed a consent decree with the EPA on repeated violations of the Clean Water Act.

More recently, the City issued another advisory advising residents of its failure to meet federal drinking water standards for lead, a potent neurotoxin with many negative consequences for human health, especially in children and women. pregnant.

Although Jackson’s water infrastructure crisis has deservedly captured national and global attention, the capital is not alone. Many marginalized rural areas of Mississippi also have failing water supply systems, but many media outlets largely ignore them. In 2015, the EPA estimated that the state needed $4.8 billion over 20 years to fund drinking water infrastructure. (Keep in mind that this estimate is seven years old and underestimates the total cost in today’s dollars.)

The American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2021 Infrastructure Report Card finds that “[m]Much of the state’s current drinking water infrastructure is past or nearing the end of its lifespan, with older systems losing up to 30-50 percent of their treated water to leaks. and breakups. The same report gives Mississippi a “D” grade for its drinking water infrastructure and another “D” for its sanitation infrastructure. Mississippi’s infrastructure fails to meet the most basic needs of many residents.

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves, pictured here at a news conference with Jackson Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba on September 7, 2022, called for a federal declaration on September 12, 2022 that would allow Jackson businesses to deal with the capital’s water crisis. receive up to $2 million in disaster loans. Photo by Nick Judin

While the challenges are enormous, the federal government’s historic $55 billion investment in water infrastructure through the bipartisan Infrastructure Act, also known as the infrastructure, has the potential to offer some relief. Mississippi can expect to receive $429 million for water infrastructure improvements over the next five years through BIL, including $30.5 million for replacing lead service lines.

Additionally, the State of Mississippi recently unveiled its Municipal and County Water Infrastructure Grant Program, which will utilize $450 million of American Rescue Plan Act federal funds for water infrastructure grants through 2024. .

With the injection of much-needed federal funding, we are seeing a unique opportunity to make a difference to our drinking water and our public health. To seize this opportunity, we need to design projects with more resident input and build infrastructure that can protect our communities in a changing climate.

As municipalities across the state work to locate toxic lead pipes, we must, under the latest EPA guidelines, act quickly to replace these pipes, using currently available funds. Federal funds also provide an opportunity to fix our broken sewage and stormwater systems, address severe flooding in our poorest neighborhoods, and ensure that all communities, regardless of race and zip code , have access to drinking water and sanitation.

The disaster that unfolded in Jackson last week could happen again, in the state capitol or in many other communities across our state. To avoid this, we need an “all on deck” approach. We must correct historical inequities in the distribution of public funds. We need all levels of government, community groups and other organizations to work together to ensure that federal funding reaches the communities that need it most. The solutions are at our doorstep. Now is the time to act to ensure clean water for all of Mississippi.

This MFP Voices essay does not necessarily represent the views of the Mississippi Free Press, its staff, or its board members. To submit an essay for the MFP Voices section, submit up to 1,200 words and sources verifying the information included at [email protected]. We welcome a wide variety of viewpoints.

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