Sex Offenders Sue State Over Island's Water Quality

They're at a special facility in Washington state undergoing treatment
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 25, 2017 8:48 AM CDT
Sex Offenders Sue State Over Island's Water Quality
J.D. McManus, who has lived at the Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island, Wash., since 2001, sits next to a cooler of drinking water in a recreation yard.   (Ted S. Warren)

Scores of sex offenders ordered to live on a secluded island in Washington state say the often cloudy, brown water there is making them sick, per the AP. About 200 residents of the Special Commitment Center have filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the facility is violating their rights by forcing them to drink contaminated water that causes stomach pain and skin rashes and has been blamed for unexplained deaths. The executive who oversees the center says the water turns brown periodically when the pipes are flushed, and he insists the cloudiness is only an aesthetic effect that causes no harm. But an AP review of state Department of Health records shows that the water has repeatedly exceeded standards for various chlorine-related chemicals and has been cited for violations dating back to 2006.

"Just because we did a crime, doesn't mean we shouldn't have clean water," says resident JD McManus. Health reports say the facility's water treatment plant has been "on the verge of failure" since 2013, and a former plant operator told health officials in 2015 that the water's cloudiness readings were being manipulated to make the water look cleaner than it was. The Special Commitment Center is home to the state's worst sex offenders—those who have been deemed "sexually violent predators." At the end of their prison sentences, the state convinced a judge that these inmates were too dangerous to be released, resulting in a civil commitment that requires them to undergo treatment that could someday make them safe enough to be released. The center holds about 225 men and one woman. (More water quality stories.)

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