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CRS Conciliator Walter Atkinson Honored with Attorney General's Award for Role in Jackson Water Crisis Response

DOJ employees and leadership on the stage of the Attorney General's Award ceremony.

The Community Relations Service (CRS) is pleased to announce that Walter L. Atkinson, Lead Conciliation Specialist for the South Region based in Atlanta, has been awarded the Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service for his work on the Jackson, Mississippi Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act Team.

This team consisted of employees from the Environmental Enforcement Section and the Office of Environmental Justice of the Environment and Natural Resources Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi, and CRS. On January 31, 2024, the team received the award during the 70th and 71st Annual Attorney General’s Award Ceremony.

The Jackson Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act Team was formed in response to a public health crisis in Jackson in late summer 2022 when the city's drinking water system failed. Residents of Jackson were without running water for more than a week, and boil water advisories were in place for an extended period due to the failure.

The team worked with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Mississippi State Department of Health under significant time constraints to negotiate with the city, leading to the appointment of an Interim Third-Party Manager to oversee the city’s water systems. These actions were crucial to restoring safe drinking water and beginning long-term improvements to the wastewater system, which had been in violation of environmental regulations for years.

Atkinson played a key role in facilitating communication and building trust between the community, stakeholders and government officials. His work highlights CRS’s mission to help communities resolve conflicts and improve their capacity to prevent and resolve future incidents.

The efforts of the Jackson Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act Team, including the engagement with Jackson’s underserved communities to solicit feedback on long-term solutions, demonstrate a commitment to environmental justice and inclusive decision-making.

This award recognizes the team's dedication to addressing a critical public health and environmental justice issue in Jackson through collaboration and swift action.

Updated February 9, 2024