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Senator Collins joins Mississippi call for testing of contaminated water

Sen. Jacqueline Collins

As the Rainbow PUSH Coalition expands its partnerships with churches to collect more bottled water for Jackson, Mississippi, Rabbi Max Weiss, who heads Oak Park’s Temple B’nai Abraham Zion congregation, said on Tuesday, September 13, that Blacks going without clean water “is a shame and a crime.”

“That doesn’t happen in white communities,” Rabbi Weiss said during a bi-monthly meeting of the West Side’s Leaders Network meeting held at the Chicago Park Refectory, 5701 W. Jackson Blvd.

Rabbi Weiss made his remarks during a press conference held by Bishop Tavis Grant, interim national executive director of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Rev. Janette Wilson, national executive director of PUSH Excel, Rev. Ira Acree, co-chairman of the Leaders Network Board, and other clergy.

“Access to free water ought to be a fundamental human right,” said Rabbi Weiss. “The fact that in America folks can go without clean water for weeks on end, it’s not just a shame. It’s a crime.

This doesn’t happen in white communities.”

Rather, Rabbi Weiss said, “it happens primarily in African American communities and that too is a shame and a crime.”

In supporting the Rainbow PUSH Coalition water relief drive, Rev. Acree said, “It’s unfortunate that America, legislators, senators and Congress have not responded as they should have. We are going to make all kinds of noise” to ensure they do give the proper resources to the city of Jackson.

Bishop Grant said, “Mississippi is home for us,” referring to the Great Migration where over 800,000 Blacks fled racial violence and came North to Chicago including the West Side. Grant said 150,000 citizens in the city of Jackson “are impacted by this Third World-type crisis.

“We know about the crumbling infrastructure, climate change and then the political construct of obstructing getting resources and revenue to the state Capital of Mississippi. Trucks are coming. Help is on the way,” Grant said.

Born in McComb, Mississippi, Illinois Senator Jaqueline Y. Collins (D-16th) also decried the water crisis in Jackson. She agreed with Rev. Hosea Hines, pastor of the Christ Tabernacle Church and national leader of the A New Day Coalition for Equity for Black America, who called on Mississippi state officials to test the water for all bacteria.

Collins, who was not at the press conference but is in full support of Bishop Grant’s water campaign, said, “As a native of Mississippi and as an Illinois Senator, I am not only concerned with just the health of my district but also the health of my native Mississippians. The fact that there might be a poliovirus lurking in the water should be of interest to everyone concerned with public health.

“Even though the immediate crisis of the lack of water has been resolved, I think the current issue that needs to be addressed is whether or not if the water contains other viruses that could put Mississippians in danger of disease and possible death,” Collins said. She asked for further testing of the water like in New York.

Senator Collins was referring to reports that New York City is also having similar water problems. Health officials there say contaminated water and poor sanitation are linked to the transmission of diseases such as cholera, diarrhea, dysentery A, typhoid, and polio.

The New York State Department of Health and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene briefed New Yorkers on the detection of poliovirus (the virus that causes paralytic) polio in sewage.

Polio can lead to permanent paralysis of the arms and legs and even death in some cases, according to New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “The detection of poliovirus in wastewater samples in New York City is alarming, but not surprising,” she said.

New York City Health officials say the best way to keep adults and children polio-free is through safe and effective immunization, which could prevent permanent paralysis and death.

Agreeing, Senator Collins said, “Where you have wastewater and poverty coming together, lacking resources over the years, there is always a current danger lurking in the future. I join in asking that further testing be done in contaminated water.”

Rev. Hines said two women and a college student took baths and/or showers and broke out with a rash. “It is imperative that the (Mississippi) State Department identify the kinds of bacteria that are in the water and what is the basic harm it can do to individuals who may drink or drank contaminated water prior to the boil order notice.

Hines said residents need this information so they can see their doctors and receive treatment. He also called on the state and city officials to provide immunizations that can prevent polio and possible death.”

Also in support of Bishop Grant’s water campaign is Illinois Senator Mattie Hunter (D-3) who said, “If our constituencies don’t have access to basic life necessities, water arguably the most important of them all, then we have failed as a state.

“Everyone should have access to clean water, and they shouldn’t have to wait in line for hours and hours to get it,” said Hunter.

“Jackson, Mississippi, must be handled better than Flint, Michigan, which is still reeling from their water crisis that began in 2014.

“These are majority Black and brown residents, as with Flint,” said Senator Hunter. “We must do all we can to support the hundreds of thousands of people who are in need of fresh, clean, drinkable water.”

After two months of not having any water, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reportedly sent a team from its Office of Inspector General to Jackson to investigate Jackson’s water system. Jackson City Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba told reporters he didn’t have a clue what they were looking for but admitted some workers were questioned.

Rev. Wilson said the crisis in Jackson, Mississippi, is more than contaminated water. “It’s infrastructure that has been crumbling for the past two decades.” She said there is no barrier between the sewer and the fresh water.”

Also present at the press conference were Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi, Karl A. Brinson, President Chicago Westside Branch NAACP, Donald J. Dew, president/CEO, Habilitative Systems, Inc., and many others.

Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., and Bishop Grant are urging the public to drop off their water donations and sanitizer wipes through November 16th at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition national headquarters, 930 E. 50th St., Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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