Fresh on heels of water disaster, Mississippi city now has garbage problems

Published 9:39 pm Thursday, October 6, 2022

Mississippi’s capital city is still grappling with a troubled water system, and it could soon see garbage piling up outside homes and businesses.

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba announced Thursday garbage collection will cease after Saturday unless the city starts paying a company that has been doing the work without compensation since April.

Lumumba and the Jackson City Council have been feuding for several months over the garbage contract for the city of 150,000 residents.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The trash clash continued even as most of Jackson lost running water for several days in late August and early September because torrential rainfall exacerbated problems with the city’s main water treatment plant. For seven weeks from late July to mid-September, people in Jackson were also told to boil water to kill contaminants because the state health department found cloudy water that could make people ill.

Crews are still making emergency repairs to the water plant, and questions remain about the quality of water in the city where 80% of residents are Black and a quarter live in poverty.

The city council voted multiple times against awarding the garbage collection contract to a New Orleans-based company, Richard’s Disposal. The mayor said the company had submitted the lowest and best bid. City council members said they thought the company that previously had Jackson’s garbage contract, Houston-based Waste Management Inc., had a better bid.

Early this year, Lumumba issued an emergency order to award a garbage collection contract to Richard’s Disposal.

The mayor and the council have been arguing in state court over whether the mayor has the power to veto the council’s rejection of his choice for a garbage collection company. That dispute awaits consideration at the Mississippi Supreme Court.

Richard’s Disposal is still pursuing a federal lawsuit that seeks to force the city to pay for the garbage collection services the company has provided. It originally filed the lawsuit in July.

The company filed papers Wednesday asking a federal judge to rule in its favor. Attorneys said the company “has continued to provide solid waste collection services in good faith.”

News outlets reported the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality could fine the city $25,000 a day if residential garbage pickup stops.