A proposed class action lawsuit has been filed against Pennsylvania-American Water Company, American Water Works Company and New Jersey American Water over a consumer’s allegation that the companies failed to disclose all contaminants in his and others’ home water distribution systems despite claiming to have done so. Moreover, the plaintiff, whose home the case says is located at the end of a Kimberton, Pennsylvania cul-de-sac, alleges that the defendants partially flooded his house with water and sediment in October 2017 after a system flush and “never showed up to clean it up.”
According to the 31-page complaint, water distribution system operators are federally required to publish quality reports for each system under their charge. The case says that the plaintiff’s home drinking and bathing water is supplied by a system known in operational parlance as “Royersford/Home Water,” the 2018 quality report for which was made available on American Water’s website. Per the complaint, the report stressed that American Water felt that “it is important that you know exactly what was detected and how much of each substance was present in the water.”
Following the issuance of the report, the plaintiff’s home was partially flooded “during or after a flushing” of the Pennsylvania American Water distribution system servicing the house, the lawsuit says. This event, according to the case, prompted the plaintiff to have his drinking water tested shortly after the next flushing, which took place in April 2018. Samples were taken of the water at that time, and were sent for independent lab testing, the suit states.
The lawsuit claims that the results of this test revealed a “very high” level of tetrachloroethylene, a colorless dry cleaning agent and metal degreaser, as well as nickel, in the water from the plaintiff’s kitchen faucet. American Water’s 2018 “Royersford/Home Water” report did not list tetrachloroethylene, which the lawsuit says can cause liver problems and increase the risk of cancer, among the contaminants found in the plaintiff’s water distribution system, the case says. Moreover, prolonged exposure to the compound commonly used by dry cleaners can lead to “changes in mood, memory, attention, reaction time, and vision,” per the complaint:
“Tetrachloroethylene in water provided to residential homes typically comes from ‘backflow’ from dry cleaning operations and/or factories located on the same water distribution system. There are a number of dry cleaners located a few miles away from Plaintiff's house that potentially are on the same water distribution system as Plaintiff. Defendants knew or should have known the water provided to Plaintiff's house in 2018 was at times contaminated with tetrachloroethylene from backflow or some other source.”
The case later posits that the tetrachloroethylene found in the plaintiff’s water may have come from vinyl-lined asbestos cement piping or vinyl-lined water mains installed in the Royersford system by Pennsylvania American Water.
The lawsuit argues that the water quality reports published by American Water have deceived customers into believing they’re being told the whole story with regard to the contaminants in their water supply. The reports themselves, according to the case, are compiled of data collected on only what’s in water as it's leaving a treatment plant. What happens in the time between then and when it reaches a consumer’s house goes unmentioned, the plaintiff alleges:
“After American Water states in its water quality reports that it will be disclosing; ‘what substances were detected in your drinking water,’ American Water provides data on regulated and unregulated contaminants based only upon samples taken from water coming out of its treatment facilities. Reporting only what comes out of water treatment facilities is not the same as telling customers ‘exactly’ what is in their water when American Water knew or should have known there were additional contaminants within a water distribution system.”
With regard to co-defendants New Jersey American Water and Pennsylvania-America Water, the case alleges the companies similarly issue water quality reports without disclosing each and every contaminant despite promising to do so.
The lawsuit lastly says that on October 25, 2017, the plaintiff’s toilets “spewed out sediment and water with such force that sediment was hitting the walls and water covered the bathroom floors” following a system flush. Pennsylvania-American Water, the case says, knows of the damage the flush caused to the plaintiff’s house yet “has elected to not compensate class members like him for damage done when a water system American Water operates is negligently flushed.”