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EPA launches investigation into Jackson, Mississippi, water crisis

Jackson restaurant owner on water crisis
Jackson, Mississippi, restaurant owner on staying open during water crisis 04:49

The Environmental Protection Agency has launched a review of the water crisis in Jackson, Mississippi, which left thousands of residents without water for days, an official confirmed to CBS News Saturday.

Jennifer Kaplan, spokesperson for the EPA's Office of Inspector General (OIG), told CBS News that the agency had launched a "multidisciplinary review" of the crisis.

The OIG has sent personnel to Jackson who are on the ground collecting data and conducting interviews surrounding work related to the city's water system.

"We're going to be talking to as many people as we can and see what kind of work we can do," Kaplan said. "It is all hands on deck."

Kaplan also told CBS News that she had notified the office of Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba of the EPA's inquiry.

Kaplan explained there are three divisions involved in the review: audits, evaluations and investigations.

She would not specify which divisions were deployed by the OIG.

The work is similar to the investigations in Flint, Michigan, and Red Hill, Hawaii, Kaplan said.

The Flint investigation resulted in nine indictments. Kaplan explained that if there is evidence of criminal activity, the information will be referred to Justice Department. The OIG personnel will also be interviewing state and local officials and their employees.

The city of Jackson had already been under a boil water notice for about a month when, in late August, heavy rainfall and flooding led to problems at the deteriorating O.B. Curtis Water Plant and a drop in water pressure citywide. President Biden issued a disaster declaration and Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves issued an emergency declaration.

The National Guard was called in to help with water distribution, schools and businesses were forced to close and residents were told to shower with their mouths closed because the water was not safe.

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