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Mississippi governor extends Jackson water crisis state of emergency

<i>Brad Vest/Getty Images</i><br/>Mississippi’s state of emergency order for the city of Jackson’s water crisis has been extended to November 22
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Brad Vest/Getty Images
Mississippi’s state of emergency order for the city of Jackson’s water crisis has been extended to November 22

By Claire Colbert and Hannah Sarisohn, CNN

Mississippi’s state of emergency order for the city of Jackson’s water crisis has been extended to November 22, according to a release from Gov. Tate Reeves office on Friday.

Reeves first issued the order on August 30 after major operational failures at Jackson’s O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant caused widespread problems with the city’s water system, including lack of pressure and brown water spewing from faucets and in toilets. Jackson had been under boil water notice for more than 40 days, but even since then some residents have told CNN they were still afraid to drink or cook with the water.

The state of emergency empowered the state’s Health Department and Emergency Management Agency to oversee repairs at the water treatment plant until the threat to public safety was deemed over.

Reeves and Jackson city officials have publicly sparred over responsibility for the plant’s failures, CNN has previously reported.

According to Reeves’ office, the state put forward about $13 million toward plant restoration and water distribution in the capital city.

According to Reeves, Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said the city will have a private operator for its water system in place by November 17. Reeves said the emergency order will end on November 22 to allow for a five-day transition period between the state’s management and private operator.

“At that point, the State of Emergency must, by statute, end as the water system can be managed solely by local control, as has been insisted upon by the City of Jackson,” according to the release. “The State of Emergency must only exist when a situation is beyond local control and the City of Jackson has demanded local control.”

Jackson has long faced issues with its water system. Residents and activists point to years of systemic neglect as one of the main drivers. Some city leaders have blamed the state for not answering their calls for assistance with upgrading the decrepit water system.

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency opened a federal civil rights investigation into the state of Mississippi over the crisis.

In response to complaints filed by the NAACP and Jackson residents, the EPA announced it will investigate whether the Mississippi Department of Health and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality “discriminated against the majority Black population of the City of Jackson on the basis of race in the funding of water infrastructure and treatment programs and activities,” the announcement said.

The city of roughly 150,000 residents is 83% Black.

An official with the EPA told CNN the two state agencies have acknowledged receiving the EPA’s letter on the probe. The official said the investigation should wrap up within about four months.

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CNN’s Keith Allen, Andi Babineau and Ella Nilsen contributed to this report.

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