Water is pumped from a large hole dug by a city of Jackson Water Maintenance crew working to repair a broken waterline March 6 on Pascagoula Street. Credit: Vickie D. King/Mississippi Today

Attorneys representing 600 Jackson children filed a federal lawsuit this week claiming they had been exposed to lead for years and that numerous officials in the city of Jackson and state of Mississippi attempted to cover it up.

The suit alleged that city and state officials — including current Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, former Mayor Tony Yarber and officials at the Mississippi State Department of Health — made “conscience-shocking decisions” and “showed deliberate indifference” that exposed the plaintiffs to lead.

The suit says that the city learned of its lead problem within its water well system in 2013 and was warned again in 2014. But instead of addressing it, the city attempted a quick fix that worsened the problem. The suit alleged that after the city learned of the higher lead levels, it quietly switched back over to the well system. Residents were kept in the dark the whole time, the suit says.

The plaintiffs in the case are children living in Jackson who attorneys say have been exposed to lead for years. Corey Stern, who was an attorney for plaintiffs in the Flint, Michigan, water case, is representing the Jackson children.

“Flint wasn’t a one-off — it was the canary in the coal mine that opened our eyes to water crises playing out in cities across America,” Stern said in a press release. “Jackson is yet another tragic and horrifying example of a city failing to do right by its residents and ensure they have clean access to drinking water.”

The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday against the city of Jackson, the Mississippi State Department of Health, Trilogy Engineering Services, and numerous current and former city and state officials “for allowing the city’s drinking water to become contaminated with lead.”

Click here to read the full lawsuit here, or read it below.


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Adam Ganucheau, as Mississippi Today's editor-in-chief, oversees the newsroom and works with the editorial team to fulfill our mission of producing high-quality journalism in the public interest. Adam has covered politics and state government for Mississippi Today since February 2016. A native of Hazlehurst, Adam has worked as a staff reporter for AL.com, The Birmingham News and The Clarion-Ledger and his work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Adam earned his bachelor’s in journalism from the University of Mississippi.