While the boil water notice and immediate water crisis have ended in Jackson, the question remains for many, “Is my water safe to drink?” For women – especially those of childbearing age and expectant mothers – and children, the threat of lead in water is of increased importance.
During the Jackson water crisis, the Community Foundation for Mississippi immediately identified water filtration as a gap and barrier to health outcomes for citizens of Jackson. CFM is partnering with Green & Healthy Homes Initiative (GHHI) to distribute countertop Zero water filtration systems and teach households about methods of water boiling and filtering commonly recommended by the City of Jackson. This programming will not only reduce potential exposure to unsafe drinking water but will also reduce the cost burden of purchasing drinking water for low-income households in Jackson and plastic water bottle waste.
“The Community Foundation for Mississippi recognizes that the work to resolve Jackson’s water crisis is a long-term investment that requires strategic mitigation efforts and partnering with leaders across sectors to imagine the possibilities for change. Our commitment to be “for Mississippi, for good, forever” allows us to invest in long-term systems change, build social capital and work with community leaders to identify and address critical issues for the sustainability and livability of the communities we serve throughout central and southwest Mississippi,” said Melody Moody Thortis, CFM’s Director of Strategic Impact. “We are so happy to launch this partnership with GHHI and to support efforts to work directly with Jackson’s most vulnerable populations, providing hands-on solutions and on-going education for increased access to clean and drinkable water at home.”
The Zero water filtration systems are certified to reduce heavy metals and PFAs, including lead, and include a testing meter to test for particles in the water. After learning about safe particle levels during a home visit, residents will be able to test their water before and after filtration to ensure their water is properly filtered. Each household will receive one dispenser and a pack of replacement filters to last up to one year on average. This investment will save families hundreds of dollars a year compared to expenses of direct purchasing of bottled water, as well as costs incurred in times of crises when residents spend significant amounts of time and travel costs to find available water. With the filter, residents will be able to boil water at home, cool it to room temperature and filter it for any contaminants – all at home.
“Through discussions with families engaged in GHHI programs we have learned it is very common, especially for families living in central, west and south Jackson, to not drink tap water and spend significant amounts of their monthly income to purchase bottled drinking water,” said Catherine Lee, AICP, Director of Client Services for GHHI in Jackson. “As water crises persist these practices will contribute to inequitable cost burdens for low-income households unless families can access alternative resources for water filtration and get more information about how to address water safety within their households.”
GHHI currently provides assistance to households applying for the Lead Safe Jackson Program, a program administered by the City of Jackson Office of Housing and Community Development, which provides lead risk assessments and repairs for lead paint hazard control. To be eligible households must have low-to-moderate incomes as defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and include family members who are at risk of lead poisoning (children under the age of 6 or pregnant women), and their homes must be built before 1978 when lead-based paint was banned for residential use.
The Green & Healthy Homes Initiative (GHHI) is a 501(c)3 organization and is the nation’s largest organization dedicated to advancing racial and health equity through healthy homes. The Jackson GHHI site, established in 2015, works across sectors to support improvements in housing, coordinate and improve service delivery and provide direct services to improve environmental health in housing. GHHI is dedicated to addressing the social determinants of health and the advancement of racial and health equity through the creation of healthy, safe and energy efficient homes. By delivering a standard of excellence in its work, GHHI aims to eradicate the negative health impacts of unhealthy housing and unjust policies for children, seniors and families to ensure better health, economic and social outcomes for low-income communities of color.