Lead in Drinking Water: Class Action Filed by Fresno Families

Boucher, LLP has filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of residents of Northeast Fresno, California, alleging that the City of Fresno, California and private contractors caused dangerous levels of lead and other toxic substances to leach into their water supply. The lawsuit asks for a jury trial. As an ABC News affiliate reports:

The plaintiffs allege that in 2004, the City of Fresno changed the residential water supply from groundwater to surface water, altering the water chemistry despite clear warnings from consultants who said the change would result in pipe corrosion, causing lead to contaminate the city’s drinking water. 

Thousands of Northeast Fresno area residents were further affected when, between 2008 and 2012, the city and their private contractors installed water meters on properties, improperly connecting brass meters to galvanized piping. The brass to galvanized piping connection violated industry standards, accelerating corrosion of pipes that increased the risk of lead contamination.

When complaints of discolored water first surfaced from the community -- beginning as early as 2004 -- the city and other governmental agencies ignored them. Instead of investigating and finding a solution, the City of Fresno assured residents that their water was safe. Yet, the city failed to test the water and ignored its responsibility to report the complaints to the State Water Resources Board as required. 

The EPA standard for lead in water is 15 parts per billion (ppb). According to city testing, forty percent of Fresno homes tested had water that exceeded the acceptable level. The EPA says* lead exposure, especially in children, can lead to damage of the nervous system, hyperactivity, lower IQ, learning disabilities, impaired hearing and anemia. In rare cases, exposure to lead in water can cause seizures, coma and potentially death. Pregnant women and their unborn children are also at risk for “slow or low growth” of the baby or premature birth.

Diminished home values are also a concern. In court documents, the residents allege lead contamination has substantially decreased the value of their homes, diminishing their residential investment and making it difficult to sell their property. They have sustained other economic damages as well, paying the city for contaminated water while purchasing bottled water for drinking, cooking and bathing.

On behalf of tens of thousands of affected Northeast Fresno, CA residents, the class action complaint asks the Court to require the city to solve the water treatment plant problems, and abide by its duties to residents to, among other things, provide clean and safe water.

The class action also names as defendants the City of Fresno, the City of Fresno’s Department of Public Utilities, and private contractors retained by the city. 

Read the Complaint here

Read news articles about the lawsuit herehere, and here