- Associated Press - Friday, February 19, 2016

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Jackson City councilmen are asking officials what they are doing to address high levels of lead in residents’ drinking water, with one councilman seeking to declare a state of emergency.

Councilman De’Keither Stamps was unsuccessful in passing through an emergency declaration during a council meeting Wednesday, The Clarion-Ledger reported (https://on.thec-l.com/1XBqrsq ).

In January, the state health officials notified the city that 22 percent of a water sample taken from homes in June tested above actionable levels of lead, some as high as eight times the federal action level.

“With the data I’ve been given, I can confidently say there’s a problem,” Stamps said.

The city maintains that the problem can be attributed to old, unsafe plumping materials in individuals’ homes. Samples taken from the same homes in January have tested significantly lower, the city reported.

Kishia Powell, Jackson’s public works director, addressed the council, telling its members that the city is working to improve its system.

Stamps stressed to city officials that Jackson needs outside assistance to address issues with high levels of lead in drinking water, even if the problem is confined to individuals’ homes.

Yarber disagreed with Stamps’ proposal to declare a state of emergency, saying he did not want to instill fear in Jacksonians by doing so, especially at a time in which a recent water crisis in Flint, Michigan, has many citizens on edge.

A major difference between Flint and Jackson, Powell said, is that the crisis in Flint began because the city did not have corrosion control measures in place, whereas Jackson does.

“I don’t want to sound the wrong alarm (and have) folks saying ‘We’re Flint,’” Yarber said. “We’re not Flint.”

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Information from: The Clarion-Ledger, https://www.clarionledger.com

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