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Inmates complaining about water at Nebraska women’s prison

September 17, 2018

YORK, Neb. (AP) — The Nebraska Department of Correctional Services has a spring deadline for devising a plan to address water problems at the women’s prison in York.

Inmates have complained for the past couple of years that the water looks and tastes bad, and gives them rashes, nausea, diarrhea and other medical problems.

Tests have shown copper levels beyond federal recommendations, the Lincoln Journal Star reported. The Nebraska Environmental Quality Department gave the corrections department until April to submit an action plan for solving the problem.

A corrections department spokeswoman, Dawn-Renee Smith, said Monday that she couldn’t immediately comment on the issue.

Prisoners have enlisted the aid of the state Ombudsman’s Office, an independent agency that handles complaints from the public about the actions of state administrative agencies.

Suspected problems in the water tower that held groundwater supplies led the corrections agency to renovate it.

After the prison water levels tested high in copper, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services recommended that the prison reduce exposure to copper, particularly in the nursery, where inmates live with their babies for a set amount of time after giving birth in the prison.

Copper occurs naturally in rock, soil, water, sediment and air. It rarely occurs naturally in drinking water and usually comes from somewhere in the delivery system, according to University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension. Experts say too much copper can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps.

A reverse-osmosis unit that removes copper from water was installed for the nursery earlier this year, but not in the prison’s general living quarters.

The inmates have been told they can turn on taps and let water run for 20 seconds and the contaminants will clear, said State Ombudsman Marshall Lux.

“I don’t find that (answer) terribly satisfying,” Lux said. “It’s not an ideal situation.”

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com

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