Sep 19, 2022, 12:01 PM – Updated on Sep 19, 2022, 12:01 PM
Residents of Jackson, Mississippi, have filed a class-action lawsuit against the city, current and past officials, and two engineering companies over failures and neglect that left them without safe drinking water.
The complaint was filed on Monday in federal court in Jackson. The residents are seeking monetary damages and demanding that the city replace the lead pipes in its water system. They claim issues with the city’s water system date back years, noting that residents had already been under a boil-water notice for a month before the city’s primary water plant failed in August. It was the fourth such notice issued this year.
Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba, former mayor Tony Yarber, as well as former Jackson public works directors Kishia Powell, Robert Miller and Jerriot Smash were all listed as defendants. The suit also lists the Siemens Corporation, which previously had a $90 million contract with the city to reform its water system, and Trilogy Engineering Services LLC, which was appointed in 2016 to study the city’s water system.
Raine Becker, one of the plaintiffs, said that residents are “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.”
Representatives for the city, as well as Siemens and Trilogy Engineering, did not immediately return a request for comment.
An estimated 152,000 residents, 82% of whom are Black and 24% of whom are low-income, were impacted by the water-plant failure that left residents without water. Mississippi governor Tate Reeves declared a state of emergency and called in the National Guard on Aug. 30. He was later criticized for saying it was a “great day to not be in Jackson,” the state capital, during a groundbreaking ceremony last week.
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