The Impact of Lead-Poisoned Water on Children
Growing babies and children are at very high risk of suffering serious nerve and brain damage when exposed to high levels of toxic lead in drinking water. The water used to prepare food and formula for babies, children, and growing fetuses, leads to permanent impairments, affecting every facet of a child’s life. Children exposed to lead-poisoned water can experience very severe cognitive consequences, including:
- Hearing impairments
- Developmental delays
- Learning disabilities
- Loss of appetite
- Lower IQ
- Slowed growth, lower stature
- Weight loss
These symptoms are irreversible, affecting the child’s opportunities and quality of life for a lifetime.
A Crisis Ignored: Tragic Consequences for the Children of Jackson
In 2014, prior to the ill-fated switch of water source, then-Interim Director of Public Works, Willie Bell, warned Jackson city officials, including then-Mayor Chokwe Lumumba Sr., of the increasing lead levels in the water and presented the City with options to prevent additional lead from leaching 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, allowing lead to both leach from Jackson's pipes and spike in Jackson's drinking supply. Residents were exposed to dangerously high concentrations of lead in the drinking water.
Dangerous Levels of Lead in Water in Jackson Confirmed
In July 2015, the Mississippi Department of Health (MSDH) tested Jackson's water and confirmed the dangerous levels of lead. 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.
The Risks to Children Ignored by City Leaders
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 majority-owned by Thessalonian Leblanc, who is not an engineer.
The Problem Worsens – Behind-the-Scenes Deals
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.
Boil Water Notices Worsen the Risks
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 increased the risk of permanent damage to growing children. Boiling water exacerbates lead toxicity. As the water boils and evaporates, the lead in the water becomes even more concentrated.
Jackson Fails to Comply with Federal Drinking Water Regulations
Jackson remained out of compliance with Federal drinking water regulations until at least 2017, more likely until March 2020, but it is believed that 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 city government's conduct.
Levy Konigsberg – Advocates for Justice for Children In Jackson, Mississippi
The attorneys at Levy Konigsberg are responsible for some of the nation’s largest, record-setting settlements in cases of lead-poisoned water, including securing $646 million for injured children in Flint, and they are continuing to pursue justice in this critical matter. If your child has suffered cognitive or physical damage due to extensive exposure to poisoned, lead-contaminated in Jackson, we urge you to contact our firm to discuss your situation.
Find out whether you have a lead-poisoning case in Jackson by speaking to one of our experienced lead poisoning lawyers via phone at (800) 984-4132 or by submitting an email inquiry by filling out the form on this page. Our attorneys are quick to respond and are happy to answer all your questions.