DC psych hospital sued after 28-day water outage

Washington, D.C.-based St. Elizabeths Hospital resumed normal water usage Oct. 23, the same day two civil rights groups filed a lawsuit over the psychiatric hospital's handling of a 28-day water outage, according to The DC Post

St. Elizabeths shut off its water after the Sept. 26 discovery of Legionella bacteria in its water system. After two rounds of chlorination, officials deemed the water system free of bacteria and safe to use on Oct. 23, according to told local news source WTOP

That same day, the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs and the American Civil Liberties Union of D.C., filed a lawsuit over the water outage on behalf of four St. Elizabeths' patients. The lawsuit is filed against the District of Columbia, as well as Barbara Bazron, PhD, director of the district's department of behavioral health, and Mark Chastang, St. Elizabeths' CEO. The civil rights groups said they filed the suit to hold the defendants accountable for how the water outage was handled, according to The DC Post.

"I can't overstate how egregious the conditions are," Margaret Hart, an attorney at Arnold & Porter who is representing the plaintiffs, told The DC Post. "A hospital without water cannot really function as a hospital."

Patients and staff drank bottled water and bathed using hand wipes for nearly a month. No cases of Legionnaires' disease have been reported.  

St. Elizabeths is working to determine the exact source of the bacteria and implement preventive procedures to avoid another water shutdown. 

The psychiatric hospital declined to comment on the pending litigation. 

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St. Elizabeths shut off its water after the Sept. 26 discovery of Legionella bacteria in its water system. After two rounds of chlorination, officials deemed the water system free of bacteria and safe to use on Oct. 23, according to told local news source WTOP.

That same day, the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs and the American Civil Liberties Union of D.C., filed a lawsuit over the water outage on behalf of four St. Elizabeths' patients. The lawsuit is filed against the District of Columbia, as well as Barbara Bazron, PhD, director of the district's department of behavioral health, and Mark Chastang, St. Elizabeths' CEO. The civil rights groups said they filed the suit to hold the defendants accountable for how the water outage was handled, according to The DC Post.

"I can't overstate how egregious the conditions are," Margaret Hart, an attorney at Arnold & Porter who is representing the plaintiffs, told The DC Post. "A hospital without water cannot really function as a hospital."

Patients and staff drank bottled water and bathed using hand wipes for nearly a month. No cases of Legionnaires' disease have been reported.

St. Elizabeths is working to determine the exact source of the bacteria and implement preventive procedures to avoid another water shutdown.

St. Elizabeths declined to comment on the pending litigation.

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