Drinking water supplies are crucial to human health. When they’re disrupted, residents can experience a range of health conditions, like cancer, birth defects, and disease. Local authorities have a responsibility to keep the populace safe from waterborne disease. If they fail to do so, victims can pursue compensation.
What Causes Waterborne Diseases?
Waterborne disease can be caused by a range of contaminants, including:
Many pipe systems constructed prior to 1986 contain lead. Over time, lead pipes can leech into the water supply, exposing residents to lead poisoning. This problem can be hard to notice before it’s too late – you can’t smell or taste lead in water.
Lead exposure has several symptoms, including:
- Developmental delays in children
- Learning difficulties in children
- Abdominal pains
- Premature births
- Reduced newborn weight
Lead primarily impacts children, newborns, and mothers. For example, in 2014, the municipality of Flint switched its water supply to the Flint River, which was supplied by corroded piping. In doing so, they unwittingly exposed their residents to lead poisoning. After making the switch, Flint saw reduced birth rates, cognitive decline in children, and delayed puberty.
Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)
PFAS are a class of chemicals used in common consumer goods and appliances, like cookware and waterproof clothing. During production and distribution, they can be transferred into soil and groundwater. PFAS have a long lifecycle, so they can stay in water supplies for extended periods of time.
Research is ongoing about the impacts of PFAS exposure. Preliminary research suggests that PFAS exposure can cause:
- Increased risk of testicular cancer and breast cancer
- Changes in liver enzymes
- Increased cholesterol levels
- Reduced vaccine responsiveness
The challenge of PFAS water contamination is ongoing. On June 15th, 2022, the EPA reissued its water advisory for PFAS. In the water advisory, the EPA announced that they were increasing infrastructure spending to reduce the impacts of PFAS.
Other Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
PFAS are part of a larger group of chemicals called VOCs. Certain types of VOCs are known carcinogens.
VOCs played in the ongoing Camp Lejeune water contamination situation. Camp Lejeune is a Marine Corps base located in Jacksonville, Florida. In 1982, the Marine Corps noticed that Camp Lejeune’s water supply was contaminated with multiple VOCs, including perchloroethylene, trichloroethylene, and vinyl chloride. These VOCs exposed service members to several medical conditions, including:
- Several types of cancer
- Fatty liver disease
- Female infertility
- Renal toxicity
- Neural behavior defects
- Parkinson’s disease
- Heart defects in children
The previous examples don’t technically involve waterborne disease. Instead, they’re examples of compounds that can cause medical conditions in humans. However, there are several waterborne diseases that can prove dangerous to humans, including:
- Harmful algal blooms
These diseases aren’t just contracted from drinking water. You can catch a waterborne disease from food, swimming, or another person. In most cases, those with a waterborne disease usually experience:
- Ear infections
In rare cases, waterborne diseases can cause death. For this reason, you should contact a doctor if you believe you’ve contracted a waterborne disease.
What Should I Do if I Have a Waterborne Disease or Medical Condition?
There are a few steps you should take if you believe that you’re suffering from a waterborne disease or medical condition:
- Seek medical attention: Setting up a doctor’s appointment should be your first step. Many waterborne diseases resolve themselves after a few days or weeks. However, if you were exposed to lead or a VOC, you may be faced with a severe, life-long condition. A doctor can provide you with a diagnosis and treatment plan.
- Gather evidence of your condition: Victims of lead or VOC exposure may qualify for compensation. If you intend to pursue a lawsuit, you must gather evidence that links your medical condition to a contaminated water supply. A water contamination lawyer can gather evidence on your behalf.
- Consider seeking legal aid: A water contamination lawyer can review your case and explain your legal options to you.
Ongoing Cases Involving Water Contamination and Disease
There are several ongoing prominent legal cases involving water contamination and disease.
Many victims of lead exposure in Flint, Michigan, are part of ongoing class action lawsuits. As of November 10, 2021, a $625 million case against the state of Michigan entered its final approval phase. Another lawsuit against the engineering firms responsible for Flint’s water supply is pending.
Victims of Camp Lejeune water contamination may qualify for expanded Veteran’s Association (VA) benefits. According to the VA, you must meet the following requirements to qualify
- “You served at Camp Lejeune or MCAS New River for at least 30 cumulative days from August 1953 through December 1987”
- “You didn’t receive a dishonorable discharge when you separated from the military”
In addition to these requirements, you need to have a qualifying medical condition. The VA website contains full eligibility details.
A Contaminated Water Lawyer Could Help You Pursue Compensation
At Ben Crump Law, PLLC, we’re committed to pursuing compensation on behalf of our clients. Our lawyers have worked on several prominent water contamination cases, including representing the victims of lead exposure in Flint, Michigan. Do not delay on getting justice you deserve. Contact our offices for a free case evaluation today.