Jackson, EPA agreement heads to federal court for approval
The Jackson City Council voted Thursday to enter into an "interim stipulated order" with the United States Government through the Environmental Protection Agency regarding the city's drinking water violations.
Councilwoman Virgi Lindsay confirmed that the interim order lasts for a year, and includes a third-party administrator. Council President Ashby Foote first told those details to WLBT after the vote, which came after a two-hour meeting among the council in executive session.
The interim order, as EPA Administrator Michael Regan explained this week, will head to a federal judge to officially take effect. Regan described the action as a short-term solution, and said he will come back to Jackson to hold a public dialogue over longer term measures.
"This is a very serious action that we took today, but it is overall a good thing because we are closer to being able to guarantee safe and consistent drinking water for the citizens," Lindsay said.
All other details of the order are hidden from public view for the time being.
Jackson City Attorney Catoria Martin said during Thursday's meeting that even though the order would "technically" be a public document after being voted on, she wasn't sure whether the city could release it until it was filed with the court. Martin said her office also had to go through and "scrub" confidential watermarks from the document.
"I'm disappointed we have to (discuss the order) behind closed doors, but that appears to be the case," Foote said before asking the media to leave.
The council also voted to allow the mayor to apply for a $3 million grant from the EPA to help comply with drinking water regulations.
On Wednesday, the EPA's Office of Inspector General announced that it was continuing its investigation that began in September, following two avenues: the office is both evaluating the EPA's response to Jackson's drinking water violations, as well as conducting an audit to see how spending decisions at the state and local levels impacted the recent water crisis.
The announcement of the audit follows the EPA's recent decision to investigate Mississippi's state agencies for civil rights violations based on how they allocated money for water infrastructure in recent years.
Below is a copy of what the city council voted on Thursday: