Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Health Department Fights Back Against NAACP's EPA Complaint

The Mississippi State Department of Health attempted to slap the EPA with a dose of reality as it responded to the agency's investigation of the NAACP's discrimination complaint. The NAACP accused Mississippi of intentionally depriving Jackson of money it needed to provide safe drinking water.  Simply put, the Health Department asked how it could discriminate against Jackson when it gave the city every dollar it requested. 

The NAACP filed a Title VI complaint with the EPA's  Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights against the state of Mississippi on September 27.  The complaint charges the state intentionally deprived Jackson of the money it needed to ensure its citizens had safe drinking water. 

The NAACP represents several Jackson residents in the complaint.  The plaintiffs are NAACP President Derrick Johnson, former Mayor Harvey Johnson, Frank Figgers, Gwendolyn Burt, Dr. Akemi Stout, Ed Sivak, Deidre Long, Charles Jones, and Jane Doe.  The defendants (#6) are the Governor, DFA, Health Department, MDEQ, and the State Treasurer.  

Congress established the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund in 1996.  The program provides low-interest loans through the states to public water systems.  The Mississippi State Department of Health administers the program in Mississippi. The maximum loan amount is $5 million.  The Board can approve loans more than the $5 million limit on an individual basis. 

The plaintiffs claim the defendants engaged in "a long-standing pattern and practice of systematically depriving Jackson the funds it needs to operate and maintain its water facilities.  State agencies did so by diverting federal funds meant for Jackson to majority-white communities.  

The NAACP claimed the Health Department only issued, three, yes, THREE Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund loans to Jackson in 25 years, obviously a case of blatant, bold, and brazen discrimination.  The complaint states: 

The condition of Jackson’s water facilities is no accident. The State—including the Office of the Governor, the Legislature, the Office of the State Treasurer, and the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration (“MSDFA”), the Mississippi State Department of Health (“MSDH”), and Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (“MSDEQ”)—have engaged in a long-standing pattern and practice of systematically depriving Jackson the funds that it needs to operate and maintain its water facilities in a safe and reliable manner. For example, the MSDH and MSDEQ both received funds from the EPA to provide safe drinking water and wastewater, and were aware of Jackson’s severe needs, but distributed to the city only a small fraction and disproportionately low amount. Indeed, despite Jackson’s status as the most populous city in Mississippi, State agencies awarded federal funds from the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund (DWSRF) just three times in the twenty-five years that this program has been in existence.⁹ ...

However, there is a reason the Health Department only issued three loans in 25 years. The Health Department said Jackson only got three loans because it only asked for three loans: 

the City of Jackson has only applied for DWSIRLF funding three times in the program’s twenty-five years plus existence; the first loan application was submitted in 2016. The second and third loan applications were submitted in 2019 and 2021 respectively.

The Health Department wasn't done with burying the complaint with facts.  The Health Department said Jackson repeatedly did not spend the money it borrowed.  

The agency approved a $10,861,920 in 2016.  However, the final loan principal amount was $7 million, a difference of nearly $4 million.  The monthly payments were $36,000.  

MSDH approved more loans yet Jackson chose not to use them.  The agency approved a $13 million loan in 2019 yet only $9 million was disbursed.  A $28 million loan was approved in 2021.  The agency minced no words as it defended its record: 

Therefore, the allegation that the City of Jackson has not been properly funded by the program administered by the MSDH is untrue and without evidence. To the contrary, the above loan agreements show that the City of Jackson has been awarded and continues to be awarded loan amounts that far exceed the maximum loan limits established by the Board. 

The EPA reviews the Health Department's administration of the loan program every year.  The EPA found no problems with the Health Department's record in 2022: 

On July 28, 2022, EPA conducted its annual review of the DWSIRLF program and determined the following:

“The Mississippi DWSRF has been administered in accordance with Section 1452 of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) as amended. The program is following all terms, schedules, provisions, assurances of the IUP, the operating agreement between MSDH and the EPA, and the conditions of the capitalization grant agreement.

There is also the matter of whether the NAACP filed its complaint within the statutory deadline.  The agency pointed out that EPA regulations state the complaint must be filed within 180 days of the "alleged discriminatory action."  The Health Department argued: 

Based on the most recent DWSIRLF loan agreement executed by the City of Jackson to apply the 180-day filing period, the Complaint should have been filed by March 30, 2022. Instead, the complaint was filed on September 27, 2022. Thus, NAACP’s racial discrimination complaint is time-barred. In the alternative, EPA’s investigation must be limited to any specifically identified acts of discrimination within the 180-day time period before the filing of the Complaint.

 The Health Department concluded by using the EPA's own record against the agency: 

On February 28, 2020, MSDH sent a letter to EPA expressing its concerns with the City of Jackson’s failure to comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act (“SDWA”). The EPA, after conducting its own investigation, cited the City of Jackson for multiple violations.  The City of Jackson’s failure to properly maintain its water systems was further evidenced through the written Administrative Compliance Order of Consent. The Consent Order showed the City of Jackson water systems could not perform membrane integrity testing; their turbidity exceeded recommended levels, equipment was not properly being maintained, and the City of Jackson failed to develop a Comprehensive Equipment Repair Plan approved by the EPA.  Furthermore, the EPA found additional violations beyond what was identified in the Emergency Order.

The EPA must adjudicate the complaint within 180 days of its submission.  The deadline is estimated to be March 27, 2023.  

Kingfish note: Perhaps Instead of a long response, perhaps Dr. Edney should have replied with a one word statement: "Nuts!"

So the Health Department gave the city of Jackson every loan the city requested, every loan was much more than the maximum loan amount, and Jackson did not spend at least a third of the funds it received yet the NAACP says the Health Department discriminated against Jackson, right? 


Anonymous said...

Mississippi Government fighting the NAACP?
Where have I heard that one before?
Just like in the 1850s, 1860s, 1950s, 1960s, etc.
Still a bunch of hate-filled bigots with microphallic energy

Anonymous said...

The plaintiffs = race hustlers all.

Anonymous said...

KF with the Gen McAuliffe quote.

Anonymous said...

@9.15 AM

The NAACP was formed in 1909, so no, the Mississippi Government was not fighting the NAACP in the 1850s or the 1860s.

Anonymous said...

It means go to hell

Anonymous said...

The department of health is failing to understand its proper role in this morality play. It is interrupting the narrative by trying to make facts the same thing as truth. ABC is falling for this, isn’t playing its part as the unbiased inquisitor whose only intention is to expose the truth

Anonymous said...

9:15 AM
All the bigots in Jackson reside in city government.

Anonymous said...

@9:15 you definitely paid a lot of attention during your history classes

Anonymous said...

So, who's pockets did we pass by?

Anonymous said...

"The plaintiffs claim the defendants engaged in 'a long-standing pattern and practice of systematically depriving Jackson the funds it needs to operate and maintain its water facilities'"

Except that Plaintiff Harvey Johnson was instrumental in destroying the billing system 10 years ago, which ensured the city would be unable to get paid by its water customers.

Anonymous said...

9:15. All the facts and evidence proves the state is right. The lawsuit is frivolous and its purpose is to blame Whitey and protect present and past city government mismanagement.

Anonymous said...

Naacp is nothing but a shakedown scam.

Anonymous said...

EPA implies noblesse oblige: State overseers must drop unrequested largesse upon elected administrators of warehoused minority, which same administration lacks competence both to formally request assistance and to bill their own for service.

State failing to anticipate that the Capital City is too inept to both operate sewer and water and to bill for it is a race based State oversight.

Anonymous said...

@9:15 do you have any substantive arguments or just nonsensical dribble?

Anonymous said...

The State is 100% correct and the Federal agency staffed total dummies who answer to no one.

Anonymous said...

February 7, 2023 at 9:15 AM, psychological projection, is a real thing. I strongly suggest that you spend sometime in self reflection. Bless your heart.

Anonymous said...

And Lumumba kool-aid was enjoyed by all.

Anonymous said...

Odd how people say the government is full of bigots and racists as the majority of the State government were democrats until 2012. The Mayor of Jackson has always been. So, the entire situation really sits right in their laps. Why do the black people of Jackson continue to vote for people who squander their money and have no leadership skills of understanding of infrastructure? They should demand more from their elected officials. Not just money.

Anonymous said...

Remember this is nothing but a game to these race hustlers, call their bluff. In 20 years the water system will be in the same if not worse condition than it is today. Jackson’s only hope is to import the freaks you see strolling around Seattle and Portland. Keep Jackson Weird will the new motto.

Anonymous said...

By listening to the EPA & Mayor get the impression the State of MS should fill out the proposals requesting $$ for the COJ & then process the proper forms showing how the $$ were spent. After that fill out time sheets for COJ employees in each department certainly; non the while billing one customer that the Mayor deems Unable to pay for city services according to His ideas! Last but not least demanding the state and all cities give what the Mayor considers his fair share, along with ever citizen outside the COJ and residents of the declining State of MS also give what the Mayor considers his fair share. Get Reverend Pickett to pass his plate back around and have the criminals he loans vehicles to borrow can pony up. Most of us are on fixed incomes and stretched to the limit. Righ

Anonymous said...

I know they are trying to fight this on conservative news outlets, but they could actually meet with the EPA about this stuff.

Kingfish said...

Really can't do that. if they start negotiating, they are bound by what ever is decided. Give up right to appeal in court.

Right now, the federal courts are the state's best friend. If I were the state, fight the good fight, take the lumps, then once the decision rendered, get into court. Then in court there is discovery and actual due process. Much of this EPA complaint process has no due process.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Kingfish. I would much rather the state take its chances in court with the facts.

Anonymous said...

I hope this ends in current & former City of Jackson high level employees going to jail!

One fedup citizen said...

I hope this ends with some people waking up to the fact that the clown in the mayor's office has an agenda. That agenda, doesn't include operating the city of Jackson to the benefit of the citizens, black, or white.

Every city department, under his supervision, is totally dysfunctional. He doesn't have the ability to lead, nor does he have the ability to hire qualified personnel.

It is unfair of me to place the whole blame of this water fiasco on the current mayor. This culmination of failure has been decades in the making. This failure of past, and present leadership, concerning the water system, has been laid out by the owner of this website far better than I ever could. Yet, no one seems to care.

The state of Mississippi needs to stand its ground, take this to the court system, and let the chips fall where they may.

Anonymous said...

"Still a bunch of hate-filled bigots with microphallic energy "

It's always good to have a productive conversation.........

Anonymous said...

2:02 - I did not read it to say the state refused to talk to EPA, and I have not seen anything to make me believe that is the case. The state has refused to negotiate a settlement of a baseless claim - not the same as refusing to talk to them. And the state has provided lots of info to EPA. Maybe you should be asking if anyone has asked NAACP to withdraw the false claims it made, and let us know whether it was willing to “talk” about that.

Anonymous said...

I keep hearing people saying "this failure has been decades in the making." While that may be true, the funding to correct those failures was at least partially / wholly collected before this current idiot arrived. The failure to collect / failure to deprive services for nonpayment hasn't been going on for decades. That's a new policy from Baby Chok's administration. So, not only has the overall water purification / distribution system declined, at least this administration is neither repairing it nor collecting the money for such repairs.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. While Harvey may have launched the speed dive into failure, Chuckles took it over the finish line by providing a service that did not require payment to fund maintenance.

The average (non JPS ) Middle School kids could have run the utility better than these idiots.

Anonymous said...

This is what happens when lawyers are so eager to believe a client's story that they fail to check it before filing.

Anonymous said...

February 8, 2023 at 8:06 AM
Technically it was Yarber that started services for non-payment, but Lumumba continued it.

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