News Feature | October 27, 2021

Jackson, Mississippi Sued Over Lead Contamination Of Drinking Water

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga


Attorneys representing hundreds of residents of Jackson, Mississippi have filed a federal lawsuit against the city and state over concerns that officials allowed them to consume lead-tainted drinking water for years without taking appropriate action.

“The suit alleged that city and state officials — including current Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, former Mayor Tony Yarber and officials at the Mississippi State Department of Health — made ‘conscience-shocking decisions’ and ‘showed deliberate indifference’ that exposed the plaintiffs to lead,” per Mississippi Today. “The suit says that the city learned of its lead problem within its water well system in 2013 and was warned again in 2014. The suit alleged that after the city learned of the higher lead levels, it quietly switched back over to the well system. Residents were kept in the dark the whole time.”

Lead contamination of drinking water is an issue that’s been uncovered in communities throughout the country — generally lower-income communities that are served by outdated water systems. The lead-based pipes in these systems can leech the contaminant into drinking water as it travels from treatment operations to homes.

One of history’s highest-profile lead contamination saga occurred in Flint, Michigan, which also saw authority coverups similar to what this latest suit alleges. Corey Stern, who is representing Jackson children in this latest lawsuit, was also an attorney for plaintiffs in the Flint water case.

“Flint wasn’t a one-off — it was the canary in the coal mine that opened our eyes to water crises playing out in cities across America,” Stern said in a press release, per Mississippi Today. “Jackson is yet another tragic and horrifying example of a city failing to do right by its residents and ensure they have clean access to drinking water.”

For the city’s part, no official response had been issued as of this writing. But it’s certainly clear that Jackson has had problems with providing clean drinking water to residents.

“A city spokesman, Justin Vicory, said … attorneys are reviewing the lawsuits and will respond later,” per WAPT. “Jackson has been under a safe drinking water consent order with the [U.S.] EPA since July 1. It sets a schedule for work on water treatment facilities and delivery systems.”

To read more about how drinking water utilities maintain delivery systems, visit Water Online’s Drinking Water Distribution Solutions Center.