The environmental and public health crisis lawsuit targets the City of Jackson, Mississippi, its current and former Mayors, the former Jackson Public Works Directors, Trilogy, and Siemens for their involvement in the ruination of the public water system in Jackson
Nashville, September 19, 2022–(BusinessWire)–Jackson, Mississippi residents represented by Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, the Law Office of Larry D. Moffett, PLLC, Kershaw Talley Barlow, P.C., and Gibbs Travis PLLC filed the first federal class action lawsuit seeking injunctive relief and monetary damages against various government and private engineering defendants over the neglect, mismanagement, and maintenance failures that led to an environmental catastrophe leaving over 153,000 Jackson-area residents without access to safe running water. The Complaint in the case was filed in the Southern District of Mississippi.
“We are striving to secure clean, safe water for the Jackson community – a community that has been suffering with contaminated water for years,” stated Gibbs Travis partner Robert Gibbs, who represents the Plaintiffs in the suit. “This is a righteous fight, and one we intend to win.”
“All families are entitled to clean and safe drinking water,” said Lieff Cabraser partner Mark P. Chalos, who also represents the Plaintiffs in the case. “Government officials turning a blind eye to contaminated water and letting a major American city’s infrastructure crumble into disrepair is neither representing nor caring for its people. This lawsuit seeks to bring justice – and safe, clean water – to the Jackson community.”
As described in the Complaint, the City of Jackson’s water supply has been neglected for decades, culminating in a complete shutdown in August 2022 that left over 153,000 residents, 82% of whom are Black, without access to running water. These residents lacked safe drinking water, or water for making powdered baby formula, cooking, showering, or laundry. During the long period where the city had no water pressure—and was unable to facilitate the flow of water—residents of Jackson could not flush their toilets for days at a time.
“We’re suffering because of the lack of leadership and planning by government officials and others. Access to clean water is a basic human right, and government officials must be held accountable for their misconduct,” said Raine Becker, who is one of the named plaintiffs in the class action. “The purpose of the lawsuit is to force them to fix the water mess, care for our community that has been put in danger, and put the right systems in place so that this never happens again.”
The Complaint goes on to note that even before the water system failed, Jackson’s water supply was not fit for human consumption due to the high levels of lead and other contaminants, in violation of the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights, the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Lead and Copper Rule (LCR). This environmental justice and public health crisis, decades in the making, was wholly foreseeable by Defendants’ actions and negligence, and left residents in an untenable position – lacking access to clean, safe water in 2022 in a major American city and state capital.
The Complaint further states that Plaintiffs were poisoned by lead and other contaminants released into Jackson’s drinking water as a result of Defendants’ conscience-shocking deliberate indifference. Plaintiffs assert claims for personal injuries based on Defendants’ deprivation of Plaintiffs’ rights to bodily integrity protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Additionally, Plaintiffs assert claims against Trilogy Engineering Services LLC, Siemens Corporation, and Siemens Industry, Inc, for professional and simple negligence in exacerbating the catastrophic, preventable, and ongoing public health crisis.
As one historical data point referenced in the Complaint makes clear, on or about June 23 and 24, 2015, officials from the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) performed water testing in Jackson required by the Safe Drinking Water Act. The MSDH found that levels of lead in Jackson’s drinking water exceeded the EPA LCR’s 15 ppb action threshold in 22% of Jackson homes, according to the sampling. By comparison, this was a larger proportion of homes with lead in excess of the LCR’s 15 ppb threshold than found in Flint, Michigan at about that time (16.7%).
In a May 12, 2021 notice, the City of Jackson admitted to its water users that “[d]uring the monitoring periods of 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021, we failed to consistently meet treatment technique requirements for our system which is a violation of the Lead and Copper Rule and a requirement of the City’s Optimized Corrosion Control Plan.” From June 21, 2015, to May 28, 2021, Jackson sampled its water for lead 1,352 times. According to records examined by the Clarion Ledger, of those samples 66% contained lead.
“It’s hard to think of a more basic public service than provision of clean, usable water,” notes Lieff Cabraser partner Tiseme Zegeye, who also represents the Plaintiffs in the case. “We are honored to represent the Jackson Plaintiffs who are seeking justice for their families and their communities by holding wrongdoers accountable for this colossal and life-threatening failure of the public works in Jackson.”
The lawsuit seeks immediate injunctive relief, including the removal and remediation of lead pipes and fixtures, an adequate water supply delivered to each home until the water supply is safe for consumption, and an injunction entered to stop all Jackson residents from paying for the contaminated water, as well as compensatory, punitive, exemplary damages.
Learn more about the Jackson Mississippi contaminated water class action lawsuit.