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129 more lawsuits filed over miscarriages in Chesapeake

By LOU MISSELHORN, The Virginian-Pilot

? August 4, 2001

CHESAPEAKE -- The number of women alleging that the city's drinking water caused their miscarriages increased more than six-fold Friday, after 129 more lawsuits were filed in Chesapeake Circuit Court.

A total of 154 women are seeking more than ũ billion from the city, alleging that Chesapeake allowed high levels of trihalomethanes, or THMs, in the water. Still more lawsuits are expected. THMs form when chlorine mixes with organic material such as algae and leaf particles, which are abundant in Chesapeake's Northwest River, the city's primary source of drinking water.

The lawsuits claim that since the early 1980s, the city has attempted to conceal from the public information about the concentration of THMs in the water and their adverse health effects.

In 1998, after tests showed levels of THMs above 75 parts per billion, the city issued a health warning that women who daily drank five or more glasses of water with such high THM levels could be at higher risk of miscarriage.

City officials have said THM levels dropped below that standard after Chesapeake opened a portion of its new water treatment plant later that year, although the women's lawyers contend that city records show levels exceeded 75 ppb in April 1999.

City Attorney Ronald S. Hallman could not be reached for comment Friday. In response to earlier lawsuits, the city has disputed the allegations and said that Chesapeake has stayed within the federal guidelines for safe drinking water.

The city also contends it cannot be sued because the lawsuits were filed after a two-year statute of limitations had expired, and that the city was protected by sovereign government immunity.

The city has asked that any court proceedings be moved to another jurisdiction to ensure that it receives a fair trial from an impartial jury.

City attorneys and lawyers representing the women will meet Wednesday with retired Judge Norman Olitsky to discuss a possible timeline for the case.

Want to read more? Go here: http://www.pilotonline.com/news/nw0804thm.html

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