Mississippi’s Crisis Over Troubled Water | Crooked Media
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August 31, 2022
What A Day
Mississippi’s Crisis Over Troubled Water

In This Episode

  • The city of Jackson, Mississippi is under a state of emergency because of ongoing problems with its troubled water system, leaving residents without safe drinking water.
  • Officials in Pakistan say one-third of that country has been submerged by catastrophic flooding, which has left at least 1,100 people dead. And experts warn the worst of the disaster has yet to come.
  • And in headlines: the Biden administration wiped out $1.5 billion in federal student loan debt for students of a defunct for-profit college, former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev died in Moscow, and the West Coast is bracing for a Labor Day heat wave.

 

Show Notes:

 

 

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For a transcript of this episode, please visit crooked.com/whataday

 

TRANSCRIPT

 

Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Wednesday, August 31st. I’m Priyanka Aribindi. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: And I’m Tre’vell Anderson. And this is What A Day where we’re kicking off pumpkin spice latte season by doing extensive research to understand what actually is meant by pumpkin spice.  

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Is it the flavor of a pumpkin or the spices that go with the pumpkin? There are a lot of theories on this and we at What A Day are committed to getting to the bottom of it. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: We need to shut PSLs down until we know what’s going on. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: True. [music break] On today’s show, the Soviet leader who helped end the Cold War has died. Plus, Donald Trump unleashed a barrage of conspiracy theories on his social media platform. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: But first, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves has declared a state of emergency in Jackson, the capital city there, because their water is unsafe to drink. There have been some persisting issues with one of its two water treatment plants, and it’s now ballooned into a crisis that forced all schools to go online yesterday. Its reached a point where residents need to boil their water before they can even brush their teeth. City officials say the current situation could last quote “for the next couple of days”. And the National Guard has already been called in to help distribute bottled water to the 180,000 people who live there. And some reports say folks have already been waiting in lines more than a mile long, for 2 hours, just for a single case of bottled water. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Okay. Yeah. It’s giving March 2020 pandemic apocalypse vibes. That’s terrifying. So I know there was some flooding after heavy rain recently, but is that how all of this came to be? 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Partially for sure. But let me back up first and just explain one thing, which is what a water treatment plant is. This is something I did not know. So theoretically, someone out there does not know it either. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Right. You’re you’re with someone who doesn’t know. Just give me all the details. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Basically, Jackson, Mississippi, gets its water from a local reservoir. The plants are facilities that pull in water from the reservoir, remove all kinds of impurities and then push out the clean water to homes. When one of the plants is not operating as it should, for whatever reason, the water that folks end up getting isn’t safe to consume. And the O.B. Curtis Water Plant, which is the city’s largest, suffered pump damage earlier this year, which is why the city, by the way, has been under a boil water notice since late July. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Wow. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: And yes, as you mentioned, the city has seen a lot of rain lately. That rain caused the Pearl River to flood, blocking some streets to traffic. And the influx of water, according to the city’s mayor, changed the chemical composition needed for treatment at the plant, which further slowed the process of pushing water out to customers. But before all of this, the plant in question already had some not so good things going on. In fact, the entire water system in Jackson, Mississippi, is and has been unreliable for some time. In 2020, the EPA said the conditions presented, quote, “an imminent and substantial endangerment to the persons served by the system”. And last year, there were two lawsuits claiming hundreds of children were exposed to dangerous lead levels in the water. The EPA even came back to the city back in January and issued a notice that its systems violate the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. Not to mention, there’s also been some staffing shortages at the plants that have made things even worse. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Got it. Okay. So definitely an ongoing issue here, but why hasn’t this been fixed yet? 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Well, the long and short of it is money. Of course, the problems are apparently too expensive to fix, as they are in many cities. And the reason Jackson specifically can’t afford it is because its population has eroded over the past few decades. Basically, there’s been a lot of mostly white folks flocking to the suburbs since public schools integrated in 1970. The city’s population is now more than 80% black, with about 25% of its residents living in poverty. The city’s mayor said last week that fixing Jackson’s water system could cost $200 million dollars. But Tuesday, he said the actual cost could run, to, quote, “quite possibly the billions of dollars”. So even that $75 million dollars Mississippi is receiving to address the water problems as part of the infrastructure bill that passed late last year. Even that is not enough. Right now, though, the state is going to try and help resolve some of those problems as soon as possible by hiring contractors to work at the treatment plant. And they’re going to split the cost with the city. Officials say they’re hoping that water pressure and improved conditions will be felt by folks very soon. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, I mean, I sure hope that they can go back to drinking normal water from their homes as soon as possible. Earlier this week, we also spoke about the flooding in Pakistan. But we wanted to bring you some more details about what’s happening there because it is really devastating. If you haven’t seen the footage yet, we’ll link to some in our shownotes because it really needs to be seen to kind of fully understand what Pakistan is grappling with at the moment. It is something to behold. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, so many of those images are somewhat hard to look at, if I’m being honest. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Definitely. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: But please tell us more about what’s going on. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. So this heavy rainfall has been going on for eight consecutive weeks and experts are worried that the peak isn’t even here yet. So at least 1100 people have died. That is a figure that is certainly expected to rise. And 33 million of the country’s people have been affected. The flash floods and landslides have destroyed more than 3000 miles of roads, washed away massive multilevel buildings and destroyed over 1 million homes across the country. It’s expected to result in $10 billion dollars worth of damage to Pakistan’s already shaky economy. Again, probably an undercount at this point. Figures like that can sometimes be hard to put into context, but this one is not. According to Pakistan’s climate minister, approximately one third of their country is currently underwater. So beyond a crisis going on there, we really lack the proper vocabulary to really describe what’s happening. Pakistan’s prime minister, Shehbaz Sharif, said, quote, “I can say without any fear of contradiction, this flood situation is probably the worst in the history of Pakistan”. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Wow. So let’s talk more about why this is happening. I’m assuming climate change is somewhere up there. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. So obviously, climate change is a big factor behind this torrential rainfall for every degree that the earth’s temperature rises. The air can hold about 4% more water, which can lead to more intense storms. The floods are mostly affecting southern Pakistan. And though some degree of flooding is expected during the monsoon season, the rainfall this year is 780% above average levels. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Wow. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: But this isn’t even the only extreme weather event that’s hit Pakistan this year. Since last winter, there have been four heat waves that scorched crops, disrupted the country’s already strained infrastructure and their social services. Meanwhile, they have also been contending with their own economic crisis, rising debt, record inflation and political upheaval on top of all of it. So earlier this year, former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan tried to avoid a vote of no confidence by dissolving the country’s parliament. You might remember this story. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: It was wild. So that didn’t work. But he is still trying to hold rallies in the street to show his power. While the country has issued terrorism charges against him. So the Pakistani government has really been so focused on what’s going on with him and this political crisis that it diverted a lot of attention away from flooding and disaster management, especially while this was getting started. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Gotcha. So what is being done to help the folks? 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: So Pakistan has received some aid so far, but more is on the way. The United Nations is trying to get $160 million dollars in emergency funding from the international community to try and help. Secretary General António Guterres is expected to travel there next week to see the devastation firsthand. And yesterday, the U.S. announced that it would provide $30 million dollars in assistance to help the victims through USAID. We’ll also provide a link at our shownotes to ways that you can help from home as well. That is the latest on this story for now. Let’s get to some headlines. [music break] Let’s get to some headlines. 

 

[sung] Headlines. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: California lawmakers passed a potentially game changing bill on Monday for fast food workers in the state. The measure would affect more than half a million workers by giving them more power and protections. For employees of In-N-Out who are already hometown heroes. I guess you could make them into low tier gods. California would be the first state in the US to establish a special council to set workplace standards for that industry. It would also increase the minimum wage to $22 an hour by next year. But this would only apply to fast food chains with at least 100 locations around the country. Now we can’t pop the champagne and eat celebratory French fries just yet because the bill is not yet a done deal. California Governor Gavin Newsom hadn’t said whether he would sign this bill into law, and that is because earlier this year, a state analysis concluded that it could create regulatory and legal hurdles for businesses. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: The Biden administration just canceled another chunk of federal student loan debt on Tuesday, this time for 79,000 students who attended the now defunct for profit Westwood College. Their collective debt adds up to about $1.5 billion dollars. And this comes after the Department of Education found that Westwood misled prospective students about the quality of its programs, just like ITT Technical Institute and Corinthian Colleges. According to the department, anyone who took out a federal loan to attend any of Westwood’s campuses will have the remaining debts cleared automatically. No application needed. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Listen. This is awesome. But I’m also wondering, where was the Department of Education when, like, these, like, colleges were popping up? [laughter] Like, why did it take them this long to figure this out? Like they’ve been around? I don’t know. I got some questions, anyways. Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev died yesterday. He was 91 years old. Gorbachev was the last leader to preside over the USSR before it dissolved in 1991. He played a pivotal role in bringing the Cold War to a peaceful end, and his administration introduced important political and economic reforms in the late eighties, which emboldened independence movements throughout the Soviet bloc. Russian state media reported that he died after a long illness. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Brace yourself west coast because honey, we’ve got a big heatwave coming and I’m not looking forward to it. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Nope. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: According to the National Weather Service, over 55 million people in California are under heat watches right now as temperatures are expected to reach triple digits in some areas by the Labor Day holiday weekend. But the worst of it will be in the southwest from San Diego to Phoenix. There officials say the mercury could top 110 degrees. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Oh god. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Which is insane. And forecasters are warning people in those communities about the increased risk for heat illness that comes with such scorching temperatures. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Stay inside, stay hydrated. Make sure, you know the unhoused folks in your area have water as well. There are several ways to donate and help. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Yes. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: This is not something to mess around with. Please stay safe. Former President Donald Trump showed us he is not mature enough to get his posting privileges back. Yesterday when he kicked off the day by sharing more than 60 posts on his website Truth Social. Real uh throwback to 2017 when all of us in news would wake up with 50 fucking tweets on our phone every single morning. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: And know that we were in for a terrible day. A message from the Conspiracy Superspreader Q was among the many threatening posts that Trump chose to re-truth, which is a technical term, meaning retweet but not copyrighted by a larger and more influential tech company. Q Anon fans, who are mostly used to Trump communicating to them via a dog whistle, celebrated on their forums and then called for him to, quote, “finish off Q Anon on enemies like Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden”. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Yikes. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Great. All of this probably isn’t helping Truth Social’s cause as it fights to get approved for distribution on the Google Play store. Yesterday, Google said it would not allow Android owners to download True Social until the app removed content that incites violence. Yeah, that’s going to be a while. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. But I do have some questions about how come it’s available on the Apple App Store. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Why is it so, like, iPhone users? 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Come on now. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Please. Anyways, those are the headlines. We’ll be back after some ads with the latest in coldblooded, sharp toothed emotional support animals. You don’t want to miss it. It’s a great story. . 

 

[AD BREAK]

 

Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Wednesday WAD squad and today we’re doing a segment called WAD Recommends where we share an under the radar news story, movie, book, or even a rude bumper sticker that caught our attention. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Yes. And today we’re recommending a story that ran in The Washington Post earlier this week with the headline, quote, “His emotional support animal is an alligator. They sleep in the same bed” and it centers on the beautiful friendship between 69 year old Joseph Henney, who is human, and WallyGator, who is a gator. Henney is a woodworker by trade, but he’s been caring for and relocating reptiles on the side for years. Seven years ago, he rescued WallyGator, but quickly realized he wasn’t like other alligators. The article says WallyGator’s sensitive nature became clear when he refused to eat live rats, preferring to chow down on cheesy popcorn. The whirlwind bromance between Joe and Wally only took off from there, now they go swimming together. They sleep in the same bed, and they even volunteer at a retirement community where Wally hangs out with the seniors while wearing his bright red animal support vest. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Really cute, actually. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Wally is 70 lbs and his teeth are no joke, but he has never bit anyone. So they say, [laugh] there’s so much more here that we don’t have time to cover. But Priyanka you pitched this story. So I just have a simple question for you. Why? 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Listen, I clicked this story like anyone else expecting these people to be fucking crazy. [laughter] Like, why else would you have an alligator? I mean, he might be a little bit, but you get into it, you read a little bit about how this little baby alligator, liked cheesy popcorn, didn’t want to eat like the live rats. Like how he does little tricks to, like, kind of cheer up this man when he goes through a tough time. And, like, people in his life, a bunch of his family members are, like, passing away. He’s depressed, and this little alligator is like doing tricks to try and cheer him up. It’s really sweet. I mean, they go swimming together, they go to the nursing home. He, like, kind of puts him on a leash. He seems really thoughtful about it. He seems to understand like alligators are not welcome. Like we’re never going on a plane together. Like, obviously, like he seems to understand the limits that normal people have on alligators in public. [laughing] But it is kind of it’s kind of sweet. I mean, not for me, but like if he was like, you could pet WallyGator, maybe I’d try that. He seems sweet,. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: You know Priyanka? This is one of those situations [laughter] where– 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Oh no. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: I don’t have to ask the race of this person because I can just assume because, you know, my people, we don’t play with alligators. Okay, I’m sorry. We just don’t play with no Allii– sleeping in the same bed? Are you kidding me? 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Sleeping in the bed is wild. The end of the story. I’m sorry to spoil it for everybody. He goes um that it’s actually quite cool because his skin is cool. [laughing] He keeps him cold in the summer. I was like, Oh, my god. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Wow. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Okay. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Wow, wow, wow. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: It’s a wild story, but it also is a little bit heartwarming. So you might be a little less like what is going on, then you were initially. Those are my only thoughts. That was WAD recommends. We’ll put a link to this story in our shownotes so you can read it too. [music break] One more thing before we go. Summer is coming to an end. And as you soak up these last few rays of sun, it’s important to know which sunscreens are truly protecting your skin. On America Dissected, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed spoke with Amanda Mull, a staff writer at The Atlantic, about why Americans have fewer and less effective options for UV blockers compared to other countries. You can learn more about all of this and listen to new episodes of America Dissected each Tuesday wherever you get your podcasts. [music break] That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Stay off of True Social, please, and tell your friends to listen. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: And if you’re into reading and not just the FDA’s definition of pumpkin spice like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out or subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: I’m Priyanka Aribindi. 

 

[spoken together] And stay on your best behavior WallyGator. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: We did not even get into his name being WallyGator. One word. [laughter] Like we need, there is so much. There is so much going on. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: I’m not going to yuck on nobody’s yum and i’ll leave it at that. [music break]

 

Priyanka Aribindi: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein and our executive producer is Lita Martínez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.