Citizens of St. Croix take legal action against the government for the presence of lead and copper in their water supply.

Residents in the U.S. Virgin Islands have filed a lawsuit against a public utility company following reports of elevated levels of lead and copper in the tap water on St. Croix. This news has caused widespread concern and has led tens of thousands of people to switch to bottled water for their drinking needs.

The lawsuit against the Water and Power Authority and Seven Seas Water Corporation, which is anticipated to be delivered in the near future, alleges inadequate supervision and failure to ensure clean water in the U.S. territory.

On Wednesday, Andrew Smith, the CEO of the public utility, denounced the lawsuit. He stated that the agency took prompt and transparent action upon receiving the test results and is currently striving to enhance water quality in St. Croix.

“We are disappointed that, despite the difficult circumstances, some individuals are taking advantage of the evolving situation that is affecting the people of St. Croix,” he stated with regret.

The Seven Seas Water Corporation, a company headquartered in Florida, operates a facility on St. Croix and supplies water to the local public utility for distribution. However, they did not reply to a request for comment.

In an interview on Wednesday, Lee J. Rohn, whose company recently filed a legal complaint, stated that her customers have offspring with elevated levels of lead in their blood exams.

She stated that it would be close-minded to only think that someone is seeking financial benefit. Instead, what people truly seek is fairness.

In late September, an inquiry was launched regarding the quality of tap water in St. Croix due to reports of discolored water on the island, which has a population of over 50,600. In late October, the government revealed that tests showed elevated levels of lead and copper in the water and advised residents against consuming it.

As the testing continued, the governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands declared a state of emergency. President Joe Biden had also declared a state of emergency earlier this month. In St. Croix, residents received vouchers for bottled water.

According to professionals consulted by The Associated Press, the findings may be inaccurate due to the fact that the testing failed to meet the standards established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Rohn, the lawyer, rejected the idea, stating that her clients have elevated levels of lead in their bodies. She also denounced the government for stating a few weeks ago that lead levels were minimal or untraceable in samples collected from multiple schools in St. Croix.

“The presence of lead should not be tolerated,” she stated. “Residents are unable to consume, shower, cook, or even brush their teeth with their contaminated water. Meanwhile, WAPA expects them to foot the bill for repairing their own plumbing.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that lead, a heavy metal, can harm a child’s brain and nervous system, impede growth, and lead to hearing and speech impairments.

The legal complaint claims that the situation has been made even more serious by the fact that residents are unaware of how long they have been consuming water with high levels of lead and copper, as WAPA only conducts testing for these substances every three years.

The claim aims to recover all costs accrued by those impacted and also replace all lead service lines without any charge to customers.

Rohn expressed disapproval of the use of public funds to provide vouchers for bottled water. She suggested that a more effective system should be implemented for distributing safe drinking water, especially for elderly residents who may not be able to leave their homes.