Families accuse officials of negligence in latest lawsuit on Flint water crisis
FLINT, Michigan — Another lawsuit has been filed in the Flint water crisis, this one by seven families that accuse city and state officials of downplaying the situation while residents suffered.
The lawsuit, filed Monday, is the latest in a series of such claims filed over the discovery of high lead levels in the city’s water supply.
The class-action suit is “on behalf of the tens of thousands of Flint residents” against the city of Flint, the state of Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder and several other officials for allegedly violating the Safe Drinking Water Act.
The seven families are suing close to 20 defendants, saying that their children have been victims of maladies ranging from neurological disorders, like seizures, to language and learning disabilities.They claim that these are due to the “high levels of lead and copper in bloodstreams, brains, bones and other organs.” The suit, filed by attorneys Hunter Shkolnik and Adam Slater, claims that the defendants acted recklessly and with negligence.
Snyder’s office said it would have no comment on the pending litigation. “We are focused on solutions for the people of Flint and we want to stay focused and avoid any distractions,” a representative said. The state Department of Environmental Quality also said it does not comment on litigation.
The plaintiffs say authorities failed to take the appropriate measures to eliminate the danger of highly corrosive, lead-contaminated water, a danger they were made aware of as early as 2014.
The alleged misconduct led to “physical and psychological injuries, learning and other permanent disabilities, weight loss, stunted growth, anemia, headaches, abdominal and other pain, mental anguish, emotional distress, the cost of medical, educational, and rehabilitation expenses, and other expenses of training and assistance, loss of income and earning capacity, property damage, destruction of water service lines, and devaluation of property damages,” the suit says. The plaintiffs are seeking an unspecified amount due to these alleged injuries.
Complaints of rashes and mysterious illnesses date back to at least 2015, shortly before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notified state officials that it had detected dangerously high levels of lead in one Flint resident’s home.
The problem began after the city switched its water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River to save money. But water from the polluted river ended up corroding old pipes, leaching lead into tap water, according to a Virginia Tech water quality study.
A study later found that lead levels in children nearly doubled — and in some neighborhoods tripled — after the city switched to Flint River water.
In January, Snyder declared a state of emergency and the city switched water suppliers again, but city residents still must rely on bottled water for drinking, cooking and other purposes.
In November, residents filed a class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court saying that state and city officials knew of the water risks and exposed residents anyway. Another suit under the Safe Drinking Water Act was filed in January by the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Yet another class-action lawsuit, filed in January in Genesee County Circuit Court, questions why city residents have continued to be billed for water which they cannot drink.
Over the weekend, the city began its effort to replace lead-contaminated piping throughout the city.
The job is expected to cost $55 million. In a news conference Monday, Shkolnik called the funds allocated to the problem “laughable” and said the cost of the entire remedy is more likely to be in the billions.