by Ed Lyon
Stamford, Connecticut attorneys David P. Friedman and Lorey Rives Leddy are representing prisoners at the Osborn Correctional Institution (OCI) over environmental hazards at that facility.
Not only are the prisoners routinely exposed to toxic and cancer-causing materials like PCBs and asbestos, they also have been drinking water contaminated with Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a water-borne bacteria.
H. pylori is caused by raw sewage entering the water supply. This is not a recent problem, but has been present at OCI for many years. The water has been described as “brown, brackish, and cloudy, with a foul odor and taste.”
Dozens of prisoners, many of them members of the named class in the lawsuit, have tested positive for and been sickened by H. pylori bacteria. Dozens of other prisoners have sought treatment for digestive ailments. Most were never tested for that specific bacteria even though numerous other prisoners with identical symptoms tested positive for H. pylori.
The problem has become so endemic that the medical unit at OCI has stopped testing for the bacteria altogether, and some prisoners reported they were denied treatment. The overwhelming majority of affected prisoners said they had never had digestive illnesses before they were assigned to OCI. The H. pylori bacteria has been identified as a causal link to some gastric cancers.
Contamination of OCI’s well-sourced drinking water has been caused by maintenance crews drilling holes in underground sewage pipes, the prisoners allege. The drilling was done to ease clogging problems and facilitate plumbing crews using equipment to clear the pipes. Those facts were included in an affidavit accompanying a motion for preliminary injunctive relief for the OCI prisoners, filed on July 24, 2019.
Prison officials and guards at OCI have long been bringing bottled water to the facility for personal consumption. Even therapy dogs at OCI are provided bottled or filtered drinking water, while prisoners have had to use the contaminated water. Long-term contamination of the facility’s water supply dates to the 1990s, from chemicals used by a dry cleaning operation on the prison site.
The federal district court certified the case as a class-action on September 26, 2019; the motion for a preliminary injunction remains pending. See: Toliver v. Semple, U.S.D.C. (D. CT), Case No. 3:16-cv-01899-SRU.
Additional source: courant.com
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