Attorney wants water tested at Cuyahoga County Justice Center

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - An attorney for a former inmate at the Cuyahoga County Jail is asking for a court order to scientifically test the water at the Justice Center.

The request comes after the attorney told Cleveland 19 a small sample tested positive for bacteria that can make people sick.

Civil rights attorney David Malik told Cleveland 19 the issue first came to his attention after he got a cold call from an inmate, who described getting sick after drinking water at the jail.

"We get a lot of calls, we don't get calls like that," said Malik.

Once he looked into it, he said he found several inmates had similar complaints about the water, that is was "brown" or had a "rusted" look. He said his client's mouth swelled and his skin broke out in a type of hives after drinking the water.

"This is more than just an inference, you have somebody that ingested water, you have somebody who got sick, you have somebody whose skin broke out because of it, you have looking at the water it looked filthy and taking it to the lab it came up with some bacteria, so it's time to really look at what's going on there," said Malik.

Malik told Cleveland 19 that the inmate was able to provide him a sample of water from the jail in a plastic bag.  He said his client collected it, then handed to a corrections officer who handed is to Malik when the attorney came to visit.

Malik said, there's no way I would drink what was in that little plastic bag."

He had it tested by a local independent lab, and the sample tested positive for the coliform bacteria. That's a type of bacteria that can make people sick.

Cleveland 19 asked how Malik knew the inmate didn't contaminate the sample.

"So, you know, I think it's a great point and I think that the only way to know without casting any aspersions on [the inmate] the only way to know is to do the retesting with the scientific samples," said Malik.

Malik admits that his client's sample collection wasn't scientific, and the lab notes in its report that the sample wasn't large enough, wasn't collected in the proper container and was the wrong temperature when it was brought to the lab.

That's why Malik's petition asks the court to allow him to take depositions about the water, as well as have an independent lab test water in the justice center. Malik said he is concerned not just about the water in the jail, but throughout the public areas of the Justice Center, possibly being hazardous

"What if we do nothing? Then people are at risk. What if we do something and we find out there's nothing there? There's really nothing there -- that's great, that's comforting, but what if we do something and we find out that there is bacteria in the water, that there is a problem, how is this any different than what's going on in Michigan," said Malik.

A spokesperson for Cuyahoga County told Cleveland 19 that the county takes water quality seriously and isn't aware of any issues.

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