Jackson, Mississippi Residents File Federal Lawsuit Over Water Crisis

Jackson, Mississippi Residents File Federal Lawsuit Over Water Crisis

For years, thousands of residents in Jackson, Mississippi, have endured unacceptable water conditions. Delayed response on behalf of city officials left residents with water unsafe to use in all capacities in 2022. People resorted to bottled water for drinking water and hygienic purposes due to restricted access to safe water. Now, Jackson, Mississippi residents have filed the first federal lawsuit over the catastrophic water crisis. 

Ongoing Battle for Clean Water in Jackson, Mississippi

While the water crisis in Jackson, Mississippi, has garnered a lot of attention recently, this is far from a new problem for the county. Recorded evidence of water issues dates back to 2015. Seven years ago, the Mississippi State Department of Health discovered that many households had lead in the water that exceeded the federal limit. The agency waited to release this information until January, even though it collected this concerning data in June. 

Then in 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency issued an Emergency Administrative Order regarding the county’s water. After testing, the EPA determined that the City of Jackson Public Water System presented “an imminent and substantial endangerment” to residents. The agency identified the potential for several types of parasites in the water, such as E. Coli, Cryptosporidium, and Giardia.

City officials have issued several boil water advisories in the past. In July 2022, residents were subjected to yet another boil water notice. This advisory came after the city’s main water treatment plant discovered cloudy water. The city attributed the murky water to mineral manganese and lime. Cloudy water, like that found in the plant, may contain disease-carrying organisms that could sicken residents. Finally, after seven weeks, officials lifted the notice on September 15, 2022. 

In August 2022, President Biden declared an emergency concerning Jackson, Mississippi’s drinking water system. The White House extended emergency protective measures since over 160,000 were without reliable water pressure. Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves announced that Jackson did not have enough running water to flush toilets, fight fires, and tend to other critical needs. 

Residents File First Federal Class Action Lawsuit Over Water Crisis 

On September 16, 2022, a group of Jackson, Mississippi residents filed a federal class action lawsuit regarding the inaccessibility to safe water. This is the first federal action filed by residents concerning the water hazards that have plagued them for years. The lawsuit seeks damages against Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, former Mayor Tony Yarber, former city public works directors, and private engineering companies. Plaintiffs argue that the defendants acted negligently in maintaining and managing the city’s water system. Furthermore, the lawsuit alleges that residents have faced lead contamination issues in their water supply even before the major shutdown from August 2022 through September 2022. 

Victims point to government officials’ misconduct and mishandling as the source of the catastrophic water system failure. Without access to clean water, residents lacked the resources to make powdered formula, cook, shower, do laundry, and stay hydrated. Additionally, plaintiffs claim that the tainted water caused residents to develop lead poisoning, brain injuries, skin rashes, hair loss, and malnutrition. The lawsuit pursues damages and action on the part of city officials. According to the lawsuit, residents call for the removal of lead pipes, the delivery of clean water to residents until the city fixes the water supply, and an order to stop residents from paying for the contaminated water.