Jackson residents claim city’s water woes stem from decades of neglect in new lawsuit

 1570082524 
1663849618
Walter Houston unloads a case of water bottles donated in Jackson, Miss., by the Salvation Army to the Mississippi Industries for the Blind.

Walter Houston unloads a case of water bottles donated in Jackson, Miss., by the Salvation Army to the Mississippi Industries for the Blind. (Leslie Gamboni for NPR)

Leslie Gamboni for NPR

A new class-action lawsuit has been filed against Jackson, Mississippi city and public officials, alleging that the recent water crisis that left hundreds of thousands of residents without reliable drinking water for more than a month was caused by decades of neglect and mismanagement.

The lawsuit was filed by a group of Jackson residents on Friday in the U.S. District Court’s Southern District of Mississippi, one day after a city-wide boil water notice was lifted, and announced by attorneys working the case on Monday. The suit names the City of Jackson, Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba, former Mayor Tony Yarber, former directors of Public Works Kishia Powell, Robert Miller and Jerriot Smash, and private engineering companies like Siemens Corporation and Trilogy Engineering Services LLC as defendants. Among other things, the plaintiffs are asking for money and a jury trial. 

The boil water notice, issued by the Mississippi Department of Health in late July, cited high turbidity, or cloudiness, of water. Residents also dealt with low or no water pressure during that time — aggravated after highly contaminated flood waters from the Pearl River led to a disruption of operations at O.B. Curtis water treatment facility in late August

But the lawsuit includes claims that the water quality was poor long before the recent pump failure at the city’s main water treatment plant. The case states the water supply was unfit for public consumption due to high levels of lead and other contaminants. It also claims that the water supply has caused personal injury to the plaintiffs including, but not limited to, lead poisoning, income loss, and brain and/or developmental injuries. 

“It’s time that the government officials and any other official or company responsible is held accountable, and more importantly that they fix this system and bring clean water to Jackson,” Mark Chalos, the lead counsel for the class-action case, said. 

The city of Jackson has yet to issue a response to the lawsuit. 

Can’t see PDF below? Click here.

The new lawsuit is not the only one Jackson is facing. Since late last year, nearly 1,800 claims have been filed on behalf of children affected by lead poisoning. The plaintiffs, represented by the same attorneys who won a settlement in Flint, Michigan’s major case of mass lead poisoning, met with lead attorney Corey Stern and others last week to get an update on the ongoing case.

This story was produced by the Gulf States Newsroom, a collaboration among Mississippi Public BroadcastingWBHM in Alabama and WWNO and WRKF in Louisiana and NPR.

 

Gulf States rank at the bottom for climate-adapted housing. Organizers want to change that.

As natural disasters and extreme weather become more frequent in the Gulf South, a new report hopes to be a road map to providing more climate-adapted housing.

How Dr. Emily Fortney is using her clinical psychology work to help pregnant people

Suicide is a leading cause of death in women, and mood and anxiety disorders make perinatal risks more complicated. Dr. Fortney’s work is focused on this issue.

Regions Bank to refund $141M for illegal overdraft fees

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that between 2018 and 2021, Regions was charging overdraft fees on some ATM withdrawals as well as some debit card purchases, even after the bank told the customers they had enough funds to cover the transactions.

Jackson’s water crisis put new attention on its longstanding lead contamination issue

Jackson’s water issues echo infrastructure struggles across the Gulf South, resulting in nearly 1,800 lawsuits over the past year and attention from the EPA.

Birmingham councilors allege promises broken but city still renews Via contract

Under the contract, the city will pay the Via ridesharing service up to $2.64 million per year to provide transit services.

Alabama prisoners refusing to work in 2nd day of protest

Prisoners including those who provide food, laundry and janitorial services refused to show up for work at major state prisons, leaving staff scrambling to keep the facilities running.

More Front Page Coverage