Imagine one family with 10 children sharing two tubs of water between them on bath night. Imagine a neighborhood where residents either pay for private wells to be dug, haul water from cisterns, or collect rain water to be able to drink, cook, and bathe.
In your mental image, what year is this happening? What country is this taking place?
Did you say Columbus, OH, up until 2003? No!? Oh, yes, it's true — and the 67 plaintiffs denied public water service from 1956 up until five years ago have just been awarded $15,000 to $300,000 after civil rights attorneys sued and won a discrimination case in which residents of a mostly black neighborhood were denied public water service. The award totals $11 million.
The residents of the Coal Run neighborhood went without public water for decades. One resident says, "As a child, I thought it was normal because everyone done it in my neighborhood. But I realized as an adult it was wrong." The money will compensate the plaintiffs for pain and suffering as well as monetary losses. To see the defense's argument, read more.
The defense that the plaintiffs were offered water years ago but refused services and that the case was a chance for out-of-town lawyers to make money from what they knew would be a generous cash settlement. And because many county residents — including commissioners, judges, and other local officials — are also not tied into the public water system, race played no part in the lack of services.
The Ohio Attorney General says, "this decision speaks firmly about the importance of treating citizens with equal respect, regardless of race."