The lawsuit alleges that city officials and their private-sector partners had ample opportunity to prevent the ongoing crisis.
A group of Jackson, Mississippi residents, have filed a class action lawsuit over the city’s ongoing water crisis, which has left more than 150,000 people across the region without regular, reliable access to clean drinking water.
According to NBC News, the lawsuit is the first federal claim that seeks to pursue damages against “various governments and private engineering defendants,” which the class has accused of “neglect, mismanagement, and maintenance failures.”
The lawsuit names as defendants the City of Jackson, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, former Mayor Tony Yarber, former city public works directors, and several private engineering companies, including Siemens Corp. and Trilogy Engineering Services LLC.
In their complaint, members of the class allege that Jackson residents were provided unsanitary and unclean drinking water.
“Jackson’s water supply was not fit for human consumption due to the high levels of lead and other contaminants,” the lawsuit claims.
The class action suggests that the ongoing public health crisis was decades in the making—and that public officials, as well as their private-sector partners, had ample opportunity to make much-needed changes.
“This public health crisis, decades in the making, was wholly foreseeable by Defendants’ actions and has left Jackson residents in an untenable position—without access to clean, safe water in 2022, in a major United States city,” the lawsuit says.
Many of the plaintiffs have said they can no longer “readily go about normal daily activities like using the bathroom, brushing [their] teeth, and cooking.”
“These residents lack more than just drinking water, or water for making powdered baby formula, cooking, showering, or laundry. During the long period where the city pipes had no water pressure — and were unable to facilitate the flow of water — residents of Jackson could not flush their toilets for days at a time,” the lawsuit alleges.
Four of the named class members claim they have suffered loss of income as well as emotional distress because of the city’s contaminated water.
Some of the plaintiffs say they have experienced “various health problems,” including but not limited to dehydration, malnutrition, lead poisoning, brain injuries, hair loss, and skin rashes.
CNN notes that many of Jackson’s problems are systemic, with the city suffering from an abundance of old, leaky pipes, treatment plant deficiencies, and an inadequate budget to make and implement changes.
The lawsuit, adds CNN, was filed on September 16, a day after the city’s last boil-water order was lifted.