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Judge Allows Flint Suit to Move Forward

Thursday, June 8, 2017

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A lawsuit alleging that officials with the City of Flint and the state of Michigan knowingly exposed residents to lead hazards in the city’s drinking water will go forward, according to a federal judge.

Judge Judith E. Levy, of the U.S. District Court for the Easter District of Michigan, ruled Monday (June 5) that the suit makes a valid claim that the actions of city officials and employees of the state’s Department of Environmental Quality made decisions in relation to the city’s water crisis that violated the plaintiffs’ “bodily integrity.”

Flint Water Tower
© / LindaParton

A suit against Flint officials and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality employees over Flint's drinking-water crisis will move forward, a judge said Monday.

The suit has been brought on behalf of two Flint residents, Shari Guertin and Diogenes Muse-Cleveland, and Guertin’s minor child.

Governor Dropped from Suit

Gov. Rick Snyder had been named in the suit as a defendant, but Levy ruled that the plaintiffs could not directly tie him to the charges. Also removed as defendants were Patrick Cook—a DEQ water-quality specialist who was arraigned last year on felony charges related to the water crisis—and Michael Glasgow, a former Flint employee who struck a plea deal last May.

Flint’s drinking-water crisis began in April 2014, when the city chose to switch its water source from Detroit’s water supply to the Flint River as an interim solution while a pipeline to carry water from Lake Huron to the communities of the newly formed Karegnondi Water Authority was being built. Flint is part of a three-county area that voted in 2010 to leave Detroit’s water supply and form the KWA.

Water from the Flint River was not treated with anticorrosive agents, and began to corrode the city’s aging pipes. Drinking water in many homes was contaminated with lead, leading to a public health crisis.

'Shock the Conscience'

The suit in question—one of several filed in response to the Flint crisis—accuses city and state officials of knowingly exposing residents to lead, and concealing the danger. The suit reportedly says the actions of the government officials were “so egregious as to shock the conscience.”

Tap water
© / 4kodiak

The suit alleges that officials made decisions in relation to the city’s water crisis that violated the plaintiffs’ “bodily integrity.”

The defendants in the suit are:

  • The City of Flint;
  • Darnell Earley and Jerry Ambrose, former emergency managers with the city;
  • Howard Croft, Flint’s former director of public works;
  • Eight former employees of the state DEQ; and
  • Veolia North America and Lockwood, Andrews and Newnam, two engineering firms that worked with the state and city on water quality.

Veolia and LAN were both sued last year by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette for professional negligence. Both companies have denied that they contributed to the crisis, arguing that state and city officials were responsible for the decision not to include corrosion inhibitors.

In March, the state and city settled another suit in a federal court in Detroit, agreeing to allocate nearly $100 million for the replacement of lead service lines in Flint, and to pay for third-party testing of residents’ water for three years.


Tagged categories: Corrosion; Health & Safety; Health and safety; Lead; North America; potable water

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