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Jackson Water Crisis

Is Jackson the Next Flint?

Levy Konigsberg LLP (the lead counsel in the Flint Water Crisis) is suing the city of Jackson, MS on behalf of 600 lead-poisoned children. Find out whether you have a case by speaking to one of our experienced lead poisoning lawyers via phone at 1-866-LEAD123 (1-866-532-3123) or by filling out the form or via live chat on our website. Our attorneys will be quick to respond to you and happy to answer all of your questions.

The Jackson (Mississippi) Water Crisis is a public health disaster that has been mounting since at least 2013 when lead levels measured in Jackson's drinking water were on the rise. Although the City was warned of the impending catastrophe and presented with reasonable solutions to avoid it, the City instead chose to switch Jackson's source of drinking water. This switch set off a cataclysmic shock within the Jackson's drinking water supply causing lead levels in the water to spike. As a result of the increased lead levels, the mostly black, working-class residents of Jackson have suffered and will continue to suffer serious health problems.

In 2014, prior to the ill-fated switch, then-Interim Director of Public Works, Willie Bell, warned Jackson city officials, including then-Mayor Chokwe Lumumba Sr. of the creeping lead levels in the water and presented the City with options to prevent additional lead from leeching into the City's drinking water. However, the City ignored Bell's warning and instead then-Mayor of Jackson Tony Yarber ordered the switch of Jackson's drinking water source from well water to the dangerously low pH surface water from the Pearl River and Ross Barnett Reservoir. The result of the switch was a catastrophic shock to Jackson's drinking water system, which caused lead to leach from Jackson's pipes and lead levels in Jackson's drinking water to spike. Residents were unknowingly exposed to riskily high amounts of lead in their drinking water.

In July 2015, the Mississippi Department of Health (MSDH) tested Jackson's water and confirmed the dangerously high levels of lead in the water. Shortly thereafter, the City switched its water source back to well water. However, residents of Jackson were not notified of these dangerously high lead levels until January 2016; approximately six months after the water was tested by the State.

Armed with the knowledge of the elevated lead levels and the serious consequences of lead poisoning, the City of Jackson did not take any steps to ameliorate the hazard. On the contrary, Jackson officials and the Jackson City Council took a series of actions that greatly exacerbated the problem. In April 2016, then-Mayor Tony Yarber hired Trilogy Engineering Services LLC to conduct a water study, the contract for which was approved by the City Council. Trilogy was owned by Thessalonian Leblanc, who is not an engineer. In 2014, Leblanc held an off-the-books fundraiser for Yarber. Leblanc and Trilogy got a sweetheart deal – they were paid nearly as much to analyze the potential crisis as an actual fix to the problem would have cost in 2014 when Willie Bell brought the problem to the attention of the City. Trilogy failed to properly evaluate Jackson's water system. Regardless, the City followed Trilogy's egregious and nonsensical recommendations. Unsurprisingly, the City's lead problem remained unsolved.

All the while, then-Public Works Director Kishia Powell repeatedly told the media and Jackson's citizenry that the water was safe to drink. City and State officials repeatedly downplayed the severity of the crisis. Over the course of the disaster, numerous boil water notices were issued to the residents of Jackson. This advice was dangerously ignorant. Boiling water exacerbates lead toxicity because the water boils off and evaporates but the lead does not, leading to a higher concentration of toxic lead in the resulting drinking water.

Jackson remained out of compliance with Federal drinking water regulations until at least 2017, more likely until March 2020, but most likely Jackson remains out of compliance today. Indeed, in March 2020, the EPA issued an Emergency Administrative Order after learning that the City still had not taken even the most basic actions to ensure drinking water quality.

Complaints lodged by residents of the City of Jackson were repeatedly ignored as they continued to be harmed by the unsafe drinking water. The bungled response by the City and the State have made it impossible to know at this point if the threat of lead poisoning has been fully neutralized. However, it is too late to reverse the harm already done to the thousands who have been permanently damaged by the government's disdainful conduct.

Find out whether you have a case by speaking to one of our experienced lead poisoning lawyers via phone at 1-866-LEAD123 (1-866-532-3123) or by submitting an email inquiry (see form to the right). Our attorneys will be quick to respond to you and happy to answer all of your questions.

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