Hugo residents forced to buy bottled water

Hugo residents had to rely on bottled water after the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality found Severn Trent Environmental Services failed to maintain the correct level of chlorine in the drinking water supply.

A resident brought an action in the district court, but the judge dismissed the case based on a narrow legal interpretation and so the resident had no standing to sue. The resident also claimed Severn Trent failed to notify her that the water was unsafe to drink. The judge found she didn’t rely on the company notifying her because she was already buying bottled water. This is a bit like the dog chasing the tail. The case is being appealed, but it may take another year before its heard.

The narrow technical interpretation really missed the mark on addressing who bears responsibility to provide clean, safe drinking water to the public. The law on the books is certainly on the side of the customer/consumer of water.

There is a lot of discussion about water of late, whether its communities fighting against their water supplies being privatized or fighting for protection from the contamination/pollution of their water. It is hoped the wider issues will be taken up in the appeal court.

A class action was also to be sought but it never got addressed before the case was dismissed.


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