A proposed class-action suit by parents of four students who attend New Jersey's Newark Public Schools has been filed with a claim that district, city, and state officials deliberately exposed their children to toxic levels of lead.
The parents say that from March 2011 to the present, thousands of young people were being poisoned resulting in gastrointestinal and cognitive health issues, writes Abby Jackson for Business Insider.
Defendants in the complaint included New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Superintendent of Newark Schools Chris Cerf. It asserts that the district concealed the lead levels in the schools' water supplies even when the information was publicized in March 2016 following the Department of Environmental Protocols' testing.
"Since [then] the Defendants have done nothing but attempt to cover up their actions, mislead parents and teachers, and make it difficult for the parents to get their children tested for lead," the suit reads.
The claim also states that the offenders "haphazardly and secretively installed filters" into some water systems, but did not properly maintain the filters, which would have roughly taken five minutes, twice annually.
Additionally, the claim states that the defendants drank bottled water while students continued to drink water from school water systems that were lead-infused.
The suit continues by declaring that some of the young people who drank the water were experiencing "life threatening and irreversible bodily injury."
Even though the district has not been officially served, it is already reaching out to the community. In a statement by Dreena Whitfield, a spokeswoman for Newark Public Schools, said:
"At Newark Public Schools, the health and safety of our students and staff is our highest priority. That is why we have taken proactive measures to share water quality results broadly with the public; to engage experts to create a new baseline for water quality in our schools; and to go beyond efforts taken in the past to solve this historic issue once and for all."
The parents are asking for a jury trial, damages compensation, the creation of a medical fund, and the addition of an overseer for water procedures in the Newark district.
According to Nick Rummell of Courthouse News, the water fountains are not the only threat to students and staff. Any food prepared in the schools' cafeterias also came in contact with the potentially hazardous water, note the parents in their claim.
Months after the crisis in Flint, Michigan, Gov. Christie ordered a $10 million allocation for lead testing. But earlier this year, Christie expressed worry that complete testing in every district would be too expensive. Many of Newark's old pipes are lined with lead.
When the discovery of lead in the water supply was found in Newark schools, state officials offered students voluntary blood testing. Thirty of the 67 schools in Newark had high levels of lead in the drinking water. Officials shut off the water at those schools and soon after that, eight more schools' water supplies were found to have dangerous levels of lead.
Throughout the state, especially in areas that were formerly industrial centers, lead at dangerous levels has been found in water systems. In Camden, the school districts have been drinking bottled water since 2002 because refurbishing the old pipes would be cost-prohibitive.