Jackson Miss., has spent much of the autumn dealing with unsafe drinking water or having no water at all as a result of an outdated water infrastructure. But adding insult to injury, many residents there complain that the city has sent them sky-high water bills despite what they’ve gone through. City officials defend the accuracy of their billing amid concerns among residents of the majority-Black city that newly installed water meters are faulty.
One resident, Virginia Evans was shocked when she received a water bill for nearly $4,000, dated Sept. 9, during the city’s water crisis.
Evans was among the Jackson residents who had low water pressure in her home when a flood in late August worsened longstanding problems at one of two water-treatment plants. Before that, state officials issued a boil-water advisory in July that was finally lifted in mid-September.
“It’s not fair for anyone, any resident in the city of Jackson,” Evans told CNN. “I don’t know what they need to do but they need to do something because no one should be paying this amount when you’re not even able to use the water.”
Annie Brown, a disabled Jackson resident, received a $700 water bill in September that she can’t afford. About 25 percent of the city’s population lives in poverty, according to the U.S. Census data. Brown told CNN that the water from her faucets is still discolored.
“My story is that you’re trying to pay for somebody else’s mistake. I don’t know what’s going on in this city,” she stated.
Residents were receiving high bills before the water crisis began in August, which many of them blamed on new meters the city installed to replace older meters that didn't work properly, WAPT reports.
Others blamed the sudden increase on the Jackson City Council’s recent decision to nearly double the fee for trash collection, which is included in the water bill. One resident said in July that their bill went from $82.51 a month to $365.57.
Melissa Payne, a spokeswoman for the city, told CNN that the new meters are accurate.
“There are some remaining software-related issues that are creating issues for some residents with new meters,” Payne said. “These issues have been identified and work is underway to address the issues.”
Jackson City Council president Ashby Foote told CNN that the city needs the revenues to fund water services, adding that residents should contact the water department if they believe their bill is inaccurate or to make payment arrangements.
Jackson mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba has stated that long-overdue maintenance and short staffing has plagued the city’s water system. For decades, city officials couldn’t afford to make timely repairs to the water system as the tax base eroded from White flight to the suburbs when public school integration started in 1970.