Father Sues D.C., Claims City Water Poisoned Kids

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Washington D.C. Utility Company Faces $200 Million Lead Contamination Suit

WASHINGTON --- The father of eight year-old twin boys filed a lawsuit today against the Washington DC Water and Sewer Authority (WASA), claiming that his children were poisoned as infants by lead-contaminated tap water, which he used to make their infant formula. John Parkhurst filed the complaint on behalf of himself and other parents of children in the District affected by the dangerous levels of lead in the community's drinking water during the period of 2001 through 2004.

"In June 2001, WASA discovered that that toxic levels of lead were leaching into the District's drinking water," said Stefanie Roemer of Sanford Wittels & Heisler, the firm representing Parkhurst. "Not only did the Authority fail to eliminate this danger, it actually took affirmative steps to hide the lead contamination from its customers and federal authorities. As a result, tens of thousands of children and pregnant mothers faced elevated risks for years longer than they should have. WASA's actions endangered thousands of children living in the District between 2001 and 2004, many of whom, like Jonathan and Joshua Parkhurst, are now profoundly affected by their ingestion of this highly poisonous element."

The filing details a range of defects associated with lead poisoning in children, including decreased growth, speech and balance problems, below-average learning skills, reduced IQ levels, loss of executive function, hyperactivity and brain damage. Jonathan and Joshua Parkhurst first showed evidence of lead poisoning in 2002, at their two-year-old medical checkup. Both boys have experienced serious and continuing behavioral and learning difficulties and both have been diagnosed with significant problems in attention, learning and executive functioning.

The suit seeks $200 million in compensatory damages, and an unspecified amount of money in punitive damages from WASA for failing to notify Dr. Parkhurst and other parents of young children in the District about the presence and prevalence of lead in its drinking water, as well as failing to notify plaintiffs about the dangers associated with consuming D.C. water; failing to take appropriate measures to remedy the dangers inherent in consuming the District's water; and continuing to cover up the severity and adverse consequences of the contamination from 2001 to the present.
"For the first time, parents know who is to blame for the poisoning of their children," said Kate Kimpel, a former D.C. public school teacher now an attorney at Sanford Wittels & Heisler. "Rather than protect our children, WASA undertook Herculean efforts to shield itself from liability and to otherwise deny responsibility for seven and a half years. Through this lawsuit, parents like Dr. Parkhurst will be able to hold WASA accountable and will be able to get the help their children so desperately need."