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Colombian town sues after drinking feces-contaminated water for 20 years

By Andrew V. Pestano
Colombian town sues after drinking feces-contaminated water for 20 years
About 24,000 Colombians filed a class action lawsuit on Thursday against government agencies after a study revealed the residents in the outskirts of Medellín have been drinking water contaminated with feces for more than 20 years. A community leader said residents have suffered from diseases like diarrhea and intestinal damage, including parasites. File photo by koosen/Shutterstock

MEDELLÍN, Colombia, Nov. 17 (UPI) -- About 24,000 Colombians filed a class action lawsuit against government agencies after a study revealed the residents in the outskirts of Medellín have been drinking water contaminated with feces for more than 20 years.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday by residents of the districts of El Pinar and Manantiales, located in Bello -- a suburb of Medellín, the capital of the Antioquia province. The study by the environmental laboratory at the University of Antioquia revealed those residents had been drinking water contaminated with E. coli and human feces for more than 20 years.

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University of Antioquia professor and researcher Leidy Ávila told Radio Caracol residents "are consuming water that is not potable" because the local governments and utilities company have not connected the town to a local aqueduct holding clean water.

"It was determined that they are consuming water with human excrement, so the pollution is very serious," Ávila said.

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Ávila said levels of E. coli in the water were 10 times higher than the legal limit.

Miguel Rodríguez Serrano, a community leader in El Pinar, said the neighborhood was filing the lawsuit due to government negligence and to protect the resident's collective rights, El Tiempo reported. The cities of Bello, Girardota and Medellín are implicated in the lawsuit, as well as the Empresas Públicas de Medellín utilities company.

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"We have always heard that the water was contiminated and we made complaints but they have not cared," Rodríguez Serrano said.

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Residents in the community have been diagnosed with diarrhea and intestinal damage, including parasites.

Rodríguez Serrano said people have died in the community because of the water, but said it was not possible to verify that in court, adding "what we do know is that it does great harm to the community."

The study was supported for years by professors and students of the University of Antioquia's political science, law and medicine departments. The community has urged precautionary measures to allow access to clean drinking water for children, pregnant women and older adults.

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