FRESNO, Calif., Sept. 12, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Residents of Northeast Fresno, California filed a class action lawsuit Friday in the California Superior Court for the County of Fresno, 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.
The plaintiffs allege that in 2004, the City of Fresno changed the residential water supply from groundwater to surface water despite clear warnings from consultants that the change would alter the water chemistry and 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 its 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 contamination by lead and other hazardous metals.
Esther Berezofsky, attorney with the national environmental law firm Williams Cuker Berezofsky represents residents filing the class action: "The 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."
Berezofsky was lead counsel in the New Jersey water contamination cancer cluster portrayed in the Pulitzer prize- winning book "Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation" by Dan Fagin and represents plaintiffs in Flint, Michigan, Hoosick Falls, New York, Warminster, PA and other communities experiencing environmental problems.
Williams Cuker Berezofsky is co-counsel in the lawsuit with California law firms Boucher LLP in Woodland Hills and the Valencia law firm of Owen, Patterson & Owen, LLP.
Ray Boucher, of Boucher LLP, says residents of Northeast Fresno have been seriously impacted by the shortcuts and pure negligence of the City of Fresno and other governmental agencies and their contractors. Boucher has previously handled corrosive pipe cases and other complex contamination cases, including his representation of plaintiffs in the In re Galvanized Steel Pipe Litigation, a class action involving defective galvanized pipes on behalf of Santa Clarita, CA residents.
According to the court filing, 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, including replumbing their homes and 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's Department of Public Utilities, and private contractors retained by the city.
The case is Micheli et al. v. City of Fresno, County of Fresno, CA Superior Court Case No. 16CECG02937.
About Williams Cuker Berezofsky
Williams Cuker Berezofsky is committed to protecting citizens affected by environmental toxic contamination at home and work. The firm's attorneys also represent clients in product liability, civil rights, consumer protection, and abusive or predatory lending practices.
Founded in 1985 with offices in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Cherry Hill, New Jersey, the firm represents clients regionally and nationally. Contact the firm at 215-557-0099, 856-667-0500 and firstname.lastname@example.org. See video and other firm information at www.wcblegal.com.
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SOURCE Williams Cuker Berezofsky