Federal judge questions mayor over safety of Jackson’s drinking water

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Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba and interim third-party water manager Ted Henifin have been called to appear in court to discuss if the capital city’s water is actually safe to consume.

U.S. District Court Judge Henry Wingate issued a statement requesting Lumumba and Henifin’s appearance in court on Wednesday following a press conference held by city officials last week.

On Wednesday, Lumumba announced that expecting mothers and caregivers with children that are five years old or younger were eligible to receive a free water filter, which was provided by a $100,000 donation from United Healthcare.

“When residents receive those notices, the precautionary notice that the Department of Health indicates that we have to put out, it creates a question whether I can drink this water, whether I’m safe, and whether my child is safe,” Lumumba said during the press conference. “This is an effort to make certain that we’re sure that we’re sure, an effort to restore their confidence in the drinking water without them having to bear the burden of costs.”

Wingate requested a court hearing shortly after the event, expressing questions about whether Jackson’s water is safe to drink because of Lumumba’s comments during the conference.

“This court is concerned whether the Mayor’s comments comport with the progress that has been made on water quality by the efforts of the Interim Third Party Manager, Ted Henifin,” Wingate’s court order reads. “Concerned, then, that the Mayor’s comments may have misinformed the public as to the current status of Jackson’s water quality, and the alleged “danger” he discussed owing to the alleged presence of various chemicals, this Court hereby ORDERS a status conference on these matters.”

Hinds County Administrator Kenny Wayne Jones — a resident of Jackson — explained during an interview on The Gallo Show that he was under the impression that although the city’s water quality was not optimal, it was still safe to drink.

“I do understand that Ted [Henifin] said that it was going to take a while before we get back to the quality that we’re supposed to be at,” Jones said.

Less than one year has passed since the a major collapse of Jackson’s water system, leaving thousands of residents with little to no water for 48 days.

Since then, millions of dollars in grant funding have been allocated to the capital city while Henifin has directed efforts to stabilize Jackson’s two water treatment facilities and repair the struggling water infrastructure.

Both Lumumba and Henifin are expected to appear in court at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday to discuss the current water quality with Wingate.

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