You may have heard about Flint, Michigan and the water crisis that exposed city residents and their children to dangerous levels of lead.
But have you heard about all of the others?
The Flint crisis prompted national inquiry into the quality of America’s drinking water. In 2016, the Natural Resources Defense Council released an astonishing analysis revealing that:
“in 2015, over 18 million people were served by 5,363 community water systems that violated the Lead and Copper Rule” including “failures to properly test the water for lead or conditions that could result in lead contamination, failures to report contamination to state officials or the public, and failures to treat the water appropriately to reduce corrosion.”
The national lead problem has spurred a string of lawsuits across the country. In Fresno, California, a class action lawsuit on behalf of residents charges that “city and other responsible government agencies were negligent in their duty to properly monitor water, report results of water quality testing to the State as required, and ensure its residents receive safe drinking water.”
Pittsburgh’s Lead Problem
In 2012, the city of Pittsburgh came face to face with its own lead problem. According to Wired Magazine, the city had clean water, but its 100-year old water system badly needed repair. Like many cities struggling to maintain operations, Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority (PWSA) hired a private company – Veolia – to help.
According to WESA reporter Liz Reid, “In 2014, Veolia changed the anti-corrosion chemical used in the water, without [state] approval. Anti-corrosion chemicals create a protective coating on the inside of pipes to help prevent lead from leaching into the water.”
In June 2016, PWSA announced it had found elevated levels of lead in drinking water in some homes in Pittsburgh. Today, PWSA is in arbitration with Veolia seeking $12.5 million over problems that arose during the life of the city’s contract with the company.
On January 4th, PWSA held another in a series of public meetings. Residents asked officials how they could be trusted. Interim PWSA executive director Bernie Lindstrom admitted during the meeting that the water authority is guilty of years of neglect.
Health Risks of Lead
No amount of exposure to lead is safe, and it is especially harmful to children. According to the World Health Organization, lead is a cumulative toxicant that is stored in the body, adding up over time. During pregnancy, it is released from bones and exposes to a developing fetus.
Lead injures the brain and other organs, such as the liver and kidneys, in people of all ages. But for children, exposure to lead is worse and can cause serious, irreversible damage that can lead to slow growth, hearing loss, hyperactivity, inability to concentrate, behavior problems, and lifelong disabilities.
According to the Mayo Clinic, signs and symptoms of lead poisoning in children include:
- Developmental delay
- Learning difficulties
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Sluggishness and fatigue
- Abdominal pain
- Hearing loss
- Eating things, such as paint chips, that aren’t food (pica)
Symptoms in adults include:
- High blood pressure
- Joint and muscle pain
- Difficulties with memory or concentration
- Abdominal pain
- Mood disorders
- Reduced sperm count and abnormal sperm
- Miscarriage, stillbirth or premature birth in pregnant women
100% Preventable & Inexcusable
Lead exposure is entirely preventable. By thoroughly testing lead levels, replacing pipes or other infrastructure, and monitoring water quality, there is no reason anyone should be exposed to lead through their drinking water.
Public water supplies monitor lead according to federal Safe Drinking Water Standards. In Pennsylvania, private water well owners are responsible for testing their own water for lead.
If you have reason to believe that your family or community has experienced health problems related to lead exposure through drinking water, contact the Pittsburgh-based lawyers at Pribanic & Pribanic by calling 1-800-392-4529.
We have medically trained staff ready to assist you and offer free legal consultations.