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Flint Families Sue over Toxic Water

Thursday, November 19, 2015

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Four families have filed a lawsuit against 14 Michigan officials claiming they replaced safe water with water that was “dangerous, unsafe and…inadequately treated.”

The lawsuit was filed Friday (Nov. 13) in U.S. District Court, Detroit, according to MLive.com. Defendants include Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and former Flint Mayor Dayne Walling.

Plaintiffs, according to the news source, are seeking several orders, including certifying it as a class action; declaring the conduct of the 14 officials to be unconstitutional; establishing a medical fund; appointing a monitor to oversee Flint water operations; unspecified compensatory and punitive damages; and attorney fees.

“Defendants’ conduct in exposing Flint residents to toxic water was so egregious and so outrageous that it shocks the conscience ...,” the lawsuit says, according to MLive.com. “For more than 18 months, state and local government officials ignored irrefutable evidence that the water pumped from the Flint River exposed (users) to extreme toxicity ...”

Water Controversy

As previously reported, Flint has been struggling with finding lead in its water source for more than a year.

By Andrew Jameson / CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Four families have sued 14 Flint and Michigan state officials after drinking water from the Flint River was found to be contminated with lead. Flint has since switched back to Detroit water.

In April 2014, the City of Flint switched its water source from Detroit water—which it draws from Lake Huron—to the Flint River. Doctors and researchers soon discovered that water drawn from the Flint River was far more corrosive than the water that came from Detroit. As a result, it picked up lead more quickly when it reached lead service lines than when the city was using water from The Great Lakes.

Michigan officials, including Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Director Dan Wyant, continued to encourage Flint residents to drink the water even after pH levels in the water were found to be trending downward late last year—a sign that the water was becoming more acidic.

Further, doctors and researchers discovered that blood levels of lead in children and infants tripled in parts of the city after the water switched, and levels of lead even in homes that were considered to be low-risk, previous reports indicate.

Wyant, amid calls for his resignation, acknowledged in October that DEQ had made mistakes when it used the wrong federal standards to treat the Flint River for more than 17 months. He also replaced his top municipal drinking water official as a result, and Gov. Snyder formed a task force.

Flint switched its water source back to Detroit on Oct. 16.

Lawsuit Details

Meanwhile, one of the attorneys representing the Flint families said those officials—and their acknowledged mistakes—are responsible for lower property values, damage to plumbing and various injuries from drinking the contaminated water.

©iStock.com / deyangeorgiev

Among the claims, the lawsuit alleges that officials knew they were exposing Flint residents to toxicity for 18 months yet encouraged residents to continue to consume the water.

“Governmental immunity does not trump the Constitution of the United States,” William Goodman, a partner in a partner in Goodman & Hurwitz, told MLive.com. “We believe we are in a very powerful position, (and) we should prevail.”

In the lawsuit, according to the news source, plaintiffs said they are suing officials because they “deliberately created, increased and prolonged the hazards, threats and dangers that arose” from replacing known safe water with unsafe water. It also alleges that state and local officials were “fully aware that the required and necessary anti-corrosive was not being used.”

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Melissa and Michael Mays; Jacqueline and John Pemberton; Elnora Carthan; and Rhonda Kelso.

In addition to Snyder, Walling, and Wyant, defendants include Flint emergency managers Darnell Earley and Jerry Ambrose; Liane Shekter, Adam Rosenthal, Stephen Busch, Patrick Cook, Michael Prysby and Brad Wurfel, all of the DEQ; Flint Department of Public Works Director Howard Croft, who resigned Monday (Nov. 16) in the wake of growing controversy; Flint Utilities Administrator Michael Glasgow; and Daughtery Johnson, former city utilities administrator.

   

Tagged categories: EPA; Government; Health & Safety; Lawsuits; Lead; Lead test kits; North America; Pipeline; potable water

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