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Judge Rules in City’s Favor in Northeast Fresno Rusty Water Case



A judge has tentatively granted the city of Fresno's motion to dismiss a case involving discolored and contaminated water in northeast Fresno homes. (Shutterstock)
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A judge has tentatively granted the city of Fresno’s motion to dismiss a six-year-old case involving discolored and contaminated water in northeast Fresno homes.

The case was granted class-action status, meaning the 13 plaintiffs could have expanded to thousands. They claimed water delivered into their homes through corroded pipes ruined their plumbing and lowered property values.

An attorney representing some of the plaintiffs vowed to appeal, once Fresno County Superior Court Judge Rosemary McGuire’s ruling becomes final. Attorneys held oral arguments on Wednesday.

“We absolutely disagree with the court’s tentative ruling,” plaintiffs’ attorney Shehnaz Bhujwala of Boucher LLP told GV Wire.

McGuire, in her tentative ruling released Tuesday, was unconvinced that the plaintiffs made their case.

“Assuming a mandatory duty exists, there is insufficient evidence presented to create a triable issue as to breach or causation. Plaintiffs’ action is based on alleged violations of legislative enactments designed to protect public health. Plaintiffs are unable to present a triable issue of fact that the damage allegedly suffered is one of the consequences the enacting body sought to prevent in imposing the mandatory duty,” McGuire wrote.

The ruling in effect canceled a trial scheduled for April 2023.

Water Problems Dominated the Headlines in 2016

With the Flint, Michigan water crisis top of mind for many, resident complaints about water quality initiated public meetings led by then-Fresno Public Utilities Director Thomas Esqueda.

He told residents that second-rate galvanized pipes were corroding and leaking iron, zinc, and even lead into their homes.

Subsequently, the then chief of Fresno’s water operations was placed on administrative leave over discrepancies in water quality reports.

And, the Fresno City Council quickly banned galvanized pipes for plumbing in new construction and remodels.

Damage Could Have Been in the Millions

The first lawsuit came in 2016 when residents said water from the northeast water treatment facility rusted their pipes. Another set of plaintiffs sued a year later, and the cases were consolidated.

Among other things, the plaintiffs said the city did not report discolored water complaints to state authorities and violated its permit to operate a water treatment facility.

Bhujwala, the attorney for the plaintiffs, estimated that damages could be in the millions.

“The court’s decision is opposite to prior decisions in the case where the court recognized that having to replumb your plumbing … is a necessary cost because the plaintiffs and class members are receiving discolored water that is contaminated with heavy metals leaching from the corroded plumbing,” Bhujwala said.

City officials did not respond to GV Wire’s request for comment.

The case is listed on the closed session agenda for Thursday’s Fresno City Council meeting.

Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email

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