Shutesbury man refiles lawsuit over lead in water in Amherst schools 

  • Amherst Town Hall

Staff Writer
Published: 6/10/2019 11:36:18 PM

AMHERST — An amended court complaint by Shutesbury resident Michael Hootstein against the Amherst-Pelham Regional Schools and Superintendent Michael Morris contends that unacceptable levels of lead remain in the drinking water at the high school and middle school.

“I am alleging the drinking water is as lead-contaminated today as it was on day one,” Hootstein said on Monday.

On Friday, Hootstein refiled a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Springfield, contending that the drinking water is causing harm to people in schools and that his rights have been violated, including the right to due process and the right to bodily integrity. In addition, Hootstein claims there has been negligent infliction of emotional distress and the deprivation of his grandfather custodial parental rights to protect his grandson under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

U.S. District Court Judge Mark Mastroianni in February ruled against Hootstein’s attempt to get the Amherst-Pelham Regional School District to provide bottled water to students and install new filtration systems to ensure that people do not consume lead-tainted water in the schools.

But much of his decision was based on the fact that Hootstein is not a lawyer, or a member of the bar, and thus could not represent his grandson, a senior at Amherst Regional High School who graduated last week.

Hootstein called that decision “a great win” that allowed him to bring back the lawsuit, in which he is no longer attempting to represent his grandson.

A retired hydrogeologist, Hootstein’s first action against the Amherst schools came in 2017, and the schools’ lawyers sought to dismiss it.

Morris has responded to the lawsuit previously by stating that the schools removed and replaced fixtures in the regional school buildings and the elementary schools in both Amherst and Pelham, making them safe for students and staff and visitors.

“Thanks to the work of our facilities department, in collaboration with the Amherst Department of Public Works, all of the drinking sources in all of our buildings now exceed the standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection for both lead and copper,” Morris said.

The new lawsuit excludes Shutesbury’s representative to the regional committee, Steve Sullivan.

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