Residents in Jackson, Mississippi, filed a class action lawsuit against the city, its leaders, and engineering companies over ongoing problems related to the community’s water crisis.
The city’s already problematic water pressure system was overwhelmed by recent Pearl River flooding that extended a water boil notice and emergency declaration by Mississippi’s governor for the city of more than 150,000 people.
“The City of Jackson’s water supply has been neglected for decades, culminating in its complete shutdown in August 2022, leaving over 150,000 residents, 82.5% of whom are Black and over 24% are living in poverty, without access to running water,” the lawsuit stated.
“These residents lack more than just drinking water, or water for making powdered baby formula, cooking, showering, or laundry,” it continued. “During the long period where the city pipes had no water pressure … residents of Jackson could not flush their toilets for days at a time.”
The lawsuit also alleges that city residents were poisoned by contaminants in its drinking water for an extended period of time. Claims also include that the city’s water quality did not meet federal requirements.
The residents further argued in the lawsuit that the problem had been occurring for decades and was preventable ahead of the recent flooding.
“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,” it added.
Democratic Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, former Democratic Mayor Tony Yarber, Trilogy Engineering Services LLC, Siemens Corporation, and other city officials were named in the legal matter.
Government leaders in Jackson, Mississippi, declared a water system emergency in August after a major pump at a water treatment facility was damaged.
The hindered water treatment facility left the city without reliable running water for fighting fires and flushing toilets, according to Republican Governor Tate Reeves, as the area dealt with the aftermath of recent flooding across the central region of the state.
“The O.B. Curtis plant is not operating anywhere near full capacity,” Reeves said during an evening press conference, reported Mississippi Today. “We may find out tomorrow it’s not operating at all. We’ll have better visibility on that when we get in there tomorrow.”
The governor’s announcement came a week after Jackson’s mayor declared a water emergency following the Pearl River flooding last week, with the city issuing a water boil notice at the end of July.
Deanne Criswell, the Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator, said last month that the date when residents could access drinkable water was unknown. He also noted that distributing bottled water to impacted residents remained the agency’s primary focus with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers.
Earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency also issued a notice of noncompliance to city leadership for not “repairing and maintaining equipment necessary to reliably produce drinking water.”