City of Germantown could face legal trouble due to water crisis

Published: Jul. 27, 2023 at 10:43 PM CDT

GERMANTOWN, Tenn. (WMC) - Although Germantown residents finally returned to their normal water usage Thursday after a week of no water, there could be legal trouble ahead for the city.

Germantown residents and businesses are free to use their tap water one week to the day after residents were told not to drink the diesel fuel-contaminated water.

Attorney Kevin Snider has five clients who want an explanation as to how this all began.

“How in the world does this happen?” asked Snider.

The “no use” advisory closed doors to several businesses and left residents wondering when they’d be able to use their tap again.

Snider says he’s been retained by three Germantown residents and two businesses to do an investigation on how this crisis happened, how it started, and if it could have been prevented.

He’s asked the city for pictures, inspection reports, along with other information and records relating to this crisis.

“I’ve been around, our office has been in Germantown for nearly three decades, this is the only place we’ve ever been and I’ve never seen a situation where so little public interaction has occurred,” said Snider.

City leaders have said the July 18 storm caused the Southern Ave plant to lose power and shift to using generators.

That’s when approximately 100 gallons of diesel fuel seeped into an underground reservoir, but it wasn’t discovered until residents were calling about foul-smelling water two days later.

Some have been critical of how information has been released.

“You’re getting drops of a highly-edited YouTube video and then you’re getting texts or the occasional phone calls, but no one is standing in front of a camera right here answering questions from the public,” said Snider. “That’s what people want.”

The City of Germantown held two press conferences over the last eight days, one on the day the leak was discovered and another Monday, July 24.

Since then, updates have come from YouTube videos, posts from the city’s social media pages, and its website.

Snider says no lawsuit has been filed.

Filing one would be an uphill battle. Snider says state law makes government entities immune from most lawsuits and only very narrow exceptions could bring one forward.

“There are more questions than answers, and that’s why we need to take to the time,” said Snider. “We want to see all these records, get through them, and get the answers ourselves through our own independent investigation.”

Snider says once their investigation is complete, they’ll know and decide if their clients have cause to move against the city.

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