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Chicago Residents File Class-Action Lawsuit Against City Over Water Contamination

Plaintiffs say ‘elevated and unsafe’ levels of lead have contaminated water supply for years due to risky construction projects

By Oliver Milman

Chicago residents have filed a class-action lawsuit against the city over the safety of its drinking water, claiming that “elevated and unsafe” levels of lead have contaminated their water supply for years due to risky construction projects.

Photo of faucetPhoto by Luis The lawsuit claims that Chicago has one of the highest concentrations of lead pipes in the US.

The lawsuit, filed on Thursday at the circuit court of Cook County, Illinois, claims that the city of Chicago has known for years that lead has seeped into drinking water due to street work, water meter installations or plumbing repairs, but failed to warn residents about the risk of lead in their water.

The city’s “negligent and reckless conduct” has caused a substantial risk to residents, the lawsuit states, without proper warnings. The three named plaintiffs in the case want the city to pay for diagnostic testing, as well as replace all of Chicago’s lead service lines in full.

The lawsuit states that the residents have shown symptoms of elevated lead levels, although testing has yet to confirm this.

Studies have shown that lead pipes carrying water into homes can be shaken or damaged by nearby construction work. This disturbance can cause the lead lining of the pipes to fracture and leech into the water, causing dangerous contamination.

An Environmental Protection Agency report from 2013 identified the problem in Chicago, warning that the city’s attempts to upgrade its water system could pose health risks from toxic metal poisoning. City officials have questioned the EPA’s findings, claiming that Chicago’s water is completely safe from lead contamination.

“We believe the city of Chicago knew well the risks and dangers of toxic lead contamination associated with these construction projects but chose to turn a blind eye to its own, allowing this mounting problem to become a widespread public health issue across the city of Chicago,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman, the law firm representing the residents.

“The city has fully abandoned its duties to its residents. The city of Chicago has put the health and safety of hundreds of thousands of residents at risk by allowing alarming levels of lead into the water supply and failing to arm residents with any knowledge of how to avoid contamination.”

A spokesman for Chicago’s department of water management said: “While we have not yet reviewed the lawsuit, Chicago’s water is safe and exceeds federal, state and industry standards,”

“The department of water management provides the cleanest, best tasting water possible; aggressive programs that protect our water supply from lead and thorough testing methods allow us to continually achieve this goal.”

Chicago is struggling with a legacy of lead service lines throughout the city. Although the installation of lead pipes was banned nationally in 1986, the lawsuit claims that Chicago has one of the highest concentrations of lead pipes in the US. Nearly 80 percent of Chicago’s homes receive drinking water via lead pipes.

One of the named complainants, Tatjana Blotkevic, said that her husband Yuriy Ropiy experienced heart attack-like symptoms during and after the city conducted a construction project near their home. Chicago has conducted more than 1,600 water main and sewer replacement projects since January 2009 in an attempt to upgrade its aging system.

“We trusted the city,” Blotkevic said. “It’s the kind of thing you just assume — that your tap water is safe to drink and that your city has done its due diligence to prevent a health hazard like toxic levels of lead. As soon as I found out that the city was allowing this to happen, our family stopped drinking the water from our taps. We had no idea that drinking the water in our own home was putting us at risk for lead poisoning.”

The toxic water crisis in Flint, Michigan has increased public scrutiny of the quality of drinking water across the US. The nation still has up to six million miles of lead piping, which would take billions of dollars to replace. Rather than conduct a widespread replacement of lead lines, water authorities have used various chemicals to coat the inside of pipes to ensure they do not leak lead into the water.

The Guardian
The Guardian UK, one of Britain's top daily newspapers, provides coverage of international environmental issues. Earth Island Journal is a member of the Guardian's Environment News Network.

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Filings of hundreds of new lawsuits has commenced.
For the second time, twenty years later: Hinkley, California Part II

Link to the lawsuits filed in the
CASE NO. CC-16-0346
Docket: 2:16-cv-00346-JCM-PAL
Lawsuit at website:

Transmitted by Nick Panchev
Authorized for reprint and publication by Plaintiffs
Authorization date: February 15, 2016 2:33 pm PST
State’s Attorney General cannot represent state officials due to conflict of interest.
Those sued have to hire their own private counsels and dip to their pockets to pay.

By Nick Panchev on Mon, February 22, 2016 at 11:47 am

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