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Jury Awards $11 Million Payout to Neighborhood Denied Water

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,


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."


Join The Conversation
TheEnchantedOne TheEnchantedOne 9 years
"Imagine one family with 10 children sharing two tubs of water between them on bath night. Imagine a neighborhood where residents... collect rain water to be able to drink, cook, and bathe." It's not everyday that you think that this also happens in America. You'd think it only happens in third world countries, not in a nation that's so much powerful. Regarding stories that get disseminated in the web or in other media outlets being duplicates of one original release, I would have to say that that happens often. In my opinion, people are more concerned with being one of the firsts to publish a story. There's nothing wrong with that, as long as you perform further verification and research before issuing out a story or immediately right after quoting the primary source of the news. It's good that you guys brought this up, vigilance is a must.
Cassandra57 Cassandra57 9 years
Stephley, thanks for that investigation. I've also noticed that, even where I see multiple stories on a given topic, they're virtually identical. Everyone seems to be just spewing that initial release, without follow-up or verification. I agree, this is a very sketchy and incomplete story. I suspect it's one more case where people think they are entitled to things which they may not be.
stephley stephley 9 years
I went through about 15 pages of google results - but even the local Columbus news outlets didn't shed any light on what the real problem might have been. In opening statements, the city attorney offered a variety of reasons why there was no water for this neighborhood, but I couldn't find any articles from during the trial that told what came up in questioning. People keep referencing that there was an offer to link the area once - but I couldn't find how long ago that was or how many people knew of the offer. It's scary to note that while a search can bring up tons of articles, every major news outlet reported from the same original story - same quotes, same details.
LadyAngel89 LadyAngel89 9 years
There are plenty of people in the US that live outside of city limits that either pay a pretty penny to have their own waterline dug or get a well. I've never heard anyone complain. If you're not in the city limits, you're not in the city limits and I don't think they should be responsible. Now, however if they are in city limits I think they should have to have city water unless the residents could prove they had a clean alternate source of water. Just IMO.
taterstagg taterstagg 9 years
Were these people forced to live there? I know that if I were looking to find a place to live my decision would be swayed by the fact that it had water or not. I dont know but i dont think it is your right the city or a water company to have to provide you water. If you have a group of houses in a stupis spot that is not on the water system dig a well or quit bitching.
raciccarone raciccarone 9 years
Public water is tearing us apart!
lilkimbo lilkimbo 9 years
Or is it what Obama would call "bitter" people?
MSucre MSucre 9 years
What a horirbly tragic story. But I wonder, is this what McCain's camp would call a group of whiners?
lilkimbo lilkimbo 9 years
And oops, my comment about it not being incorporated came from another website, not the linked article. Sorry!
lilkimbo lilkimbo 9 years
I think everyone's agreeing with you, Taadie, that's why we've been trying to look more in to it.
Taadie Taadie 9 years
All Im saying is the lawsuit, trial and article raise more questions for me than it answers. I think theres the possibility that what happened to this town are not neccesarily either greedy poor people or big bad racist water company. That's all.
linb linb 9 years
I use city water, and I'd like to sue them for forcing me to use it. In my last bill, they inserted a newsletter that basically said that quality of the water does not meet all of the regulations.
lilkimbo lilkimbo 9 years
Actually, after reading the article, it also seems as though Coal Run is not even technically part of any city. It's says it's not incorporated, so it's basically like a township. I feel like I'm missing something here because residents there wouldn't pay taxes for any city and would not be entitled to city water.
lilkimbo lilkimbo 9 years
I'm from Ohio and I know all about Columbus. If you read the linked article, however, you will see that this didn't occur within Columbus city limits. Actually, from knowing the area, I would say that Coal Run is probably pretty rural. (I don't know Coal Run in particular, but I know that area of Ohio.) I feel like this is people making a mountain out of a mole hill.
raciccarone raciccarone 9 years
Where I grew up, my pappy was the sheriff and whenever we wanted water we just went to the swimming hole. I still remember Aunt Bea's fresh pies! We used to have this bumbling deputy named Barney and he'd get into a whole mess o' troubles. Sometimes, my pappy, Mr. Taylor and I, would go down to that swimming hole with our fishin' hole and we'd whistle ourselves sick.
yesteryear yesteryear 9 years
yeah i think this is a case of lawyers making something out of nothing. sure, everyone should have the city water if they want it, but it sounds like they refused it when they had the chance (and when it would have been much cheaper because they were running pipes EVERYWHERE). even here in the bay area in the very urban city where i grew up there was a cul-de-sac near my house that for YEARS was a dirt road, simply because when the city paved the streets in the mid 50s, the owners on that street did not want to pay in. it was finally paved in the early 2000s, my response: "there goes the neighborhood".
Taadie Taadie 9 years
Theres nothing wrong with water pumped from a well. I just think that something is being left out of this article. Columbus is a pretty major city in OH so I know downtown they get water. But why not the residents of this one neighborhood? There is the possibility that the water company did make efforts to get them water, I just want to know why it didnt work. What was the hold up until 2003? I could see the possibility of racism not getting them water in 1956 but what about 1970 or 1980 or 1990. This would be an excellent story to do really in depth research on.
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
My dad STILL lives in a neighborhood where they have their own well and septic system. The neighborhoods all around them are now on city water. He doesn't want to change, because the city water has so many additives that it tastes horrible, and hooking up to the sewer system would destroy his yard, front and back.
bellaressa bellaressa 9 years
CaterpillarGirl you make an excellent point, I also grew up using a water pumped that we installed ourselves and we had to pump our own water - no in house water. However, this lawsuit was not about a city but a neighborhood - I wonder were other neighborhoods in the city treated like this as well or was it just this particular one. I will reach my own conclusion after I do some research later today.
lilkimbo lilkimbo 9 years
It's not as primitive as some people make it seem, though. We had a well dug when we bought the property, had a water softener installed, and basically had the same water as everyone else. We had a few more "minerals" in it, but it came from a tap, just like my friends' who lived a few miles away and had "city" water.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 9 years they were offered city water and refused.
Taadie Taadie 9 years
The article seems a bit one-sided.
lilkimbo lilkimbo 9 years
Yeah, CaterpillarGirl, I grew up with well water and I survived just fine.
Taadie Taadie 9 years
I think there was some outside prodding but I could see why a community without water, that from even their pattern of speech you can see that maybe these arent all doctors and lawyers, would think it was hopeless to fight the system and they had the time nor the money to do it. When youre worried about feeding your 10 children and its something you've never had before then why start a ruckus? However I would like to see more investigation done into this. If the water authority did go up and down the street asking to get signatures for water what was the holdup? Was it too much money for the community to pay? Were they misinformed about the process? Or are they lying and it didnt happen? It seems like something is missing from the equation.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 9 years
BTW i grew up in a small town where there wasnt "city" water and we had to pay to have our own well dug, and maintained. IF it was wonky, we hauled our arses down to the lake with buckets...
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