Jackson, Mississippi, residents sue those responsible for water crisis

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(JACKSON, Mississippi) – As Jackson, Mississippi continues its efforts to recover from the city’s water crisis this summer, residents have filed a class action lawsuit against former and current city officials, as well as corporations. infrastructure engineering, for their alleged role in overlooking or aggravating a “foreseeable” public health crisis, according to the filed complaint.

Raine Becker, one of four named plaintiffs in the lawsuit, told ABC News she was unaware of ongoing water issues in Jackson when she moved there two years ago. Becker says her first experience with these issues came in 2021 when winter storms left her without water for two weeks.

After a failing water treatment plant led to low water pressure and contamination of Jackson’s water supply last month, Becker says she wondered how she was doing. paying his bills and caring for his seven-year-old son, Shylar, who is terminally ill.

“I collect people’s laundry… I take it home, I wash it, I dry it, I fold it and I bring it back. Two days without water meant two days without pay,” she said. “So now I’m touched professionally and personally.”

Becker told ABC News that Shylar, who she says was born with a heart defect and developed end-stage liver disease, has a feeding tube that requires sanitary water to flush it out. Using contaminated water could have fatal consequences, she says.

“If I had flushed the toilet with the water given to us from the tap, we could be in a completely different situation right now. As if that would hospitalize him, potentially kill him,” a- she said, “It’s important and imperative that we have clean, safe water. I mean for everyone, not just because I have a sick child. It’s a human right.”

Becker said while she didn’t want to downplay the impact of authorities’ efforts to mitigate the crisis, including providing state-run water distribution sites, residents shouldn’t have to rely on them.

“I feel like they were reactive instead of proactive,” she said. “And the second they knew there was a problem – the second they knew there was a problem, whether it was with the factory or the pipes, they should have considered fixing it. at that time and they didn’t and they failed to protect us.”

Mississippi ended its boil water advisory for all residents of Jackson on September 15, nearly two weeks after water pressure returned to residents of the state capital after days of a water shortage crisis that affected thousands of Jacksonians.

The complaint names the city of Jackson; Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba; former Mayor Tony Yarber; former directors of public works Kishia Powell, Robert Miller and Jerriot Smash; Siemens Corporation, Siemens Industry and Trilogy Engineering Services as defendants.

Spokespersons for Lumumba, Powell, Miller and Siemens declined to comment when contacted by ABC News.

Yarber, Smash and Trilogy Engineering did not immediately respond to ABC News’ requests for comment.

Lumumba spoke to “ABC News Prime” last month about the roots of this water crisis, which he said has been going on for several years.

“This is due to decades and decades and decades, even 30 years or more of deferred maintenance, a lack of system improvements, a lack of human capital, a workforce plan which took into account the challenges that our water treatment facility suffers,” said Lumumba.

Mark Chalos, a partner at Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, is one of the attorneys representing plaintiffs in the lawsuit. He told ABC News that the water system failure last month “is not a surprise and should not have come as a surprise to anyone as far as Jackson’s water system operation is concerned.”

The plaintiffs seek damages and redress, including regular water testing, removal of contaminated pipes, cancellation of bills and debts for contaminated or undelivered water, and community health centers for people affected by the contaminated water, according to the complaint.

Chalos says he and his customers ultimately hope the lawsuit will push officials to fully and immediately fix the water system’s problems.

Becker says she hopes officials have a structured plan to prevent this from happening again.

“I have confidence and believe that they will solve this problem,” Becker said. “I hope no one else ever has to go through this. It’s been horrible. It’s been expensive. It’s had a lot of bad effects. And so hopefully they can learn from this and grow from it. from that.

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