A coalition of local citizens and national groups filed suit today seeking federal court intervention to secure access to safe drinking water for the people of Flint, Mich.
Alleging violations of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, the complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, Concerned Pastors for Social Action and Flint resident Melissa Mays.
The lawsuit asks a federal court to compel the City and state officials to follow federal requirements for testing and treating water to control for lead and to order the prompt replacement of all lead water pipes at no cost to Flint residents. The groups and Ms. Mays also seek appropriate relief to remedy the health and medical harms to Flint residents from the lead contamination. The lawsuit is not seeking monetary damages.
“Everyone in this country deserves and expects safe drinking water, regardless of your race, economic status or zip code. This community deserves accountability, transparency, and justice, in addition to water that is safe to drink,” said Pastor Allen Overton of Concerned Pastors for Social Action.
Nearly 40% of the city’s residents live in poverty, most of whom are African American.
“I joined this lawsuit because I no longer believe the City of Flint and the State of Michigan can solve Flint’s water crisis and return safe drinking water to our homes. For years the state told us we were crazy, and that our water was safe, which wasn’t true. For the sake of my kids and the people of Flint, we need a federal court to fix Flint’s water problems because these city and state agencies failed us on their own,” said Melissa Mays of Water You Fighting For, a Flint-based organization.
The federal Safe Drinking Water Act directs water systems to test their drinking water for harmful contaminants and to treat the water to control for those contaminants. The City and State’s disregard for the federal law has exposed the people of Flint to lead. There is no safe level of lead in drinking water. In the past two years, the percentage of children in Flint with elevated blood lead levels has doubled and in some cases tripled.
Not until residents elevated public awareness and helped bring national attention on Flint did government officials belatedly acknowledge a problem, and to date, the problems in Flint have not been fixed.
The Safe Drinking Water Act allows for citizens to sue when the government fails follow federal rules designed to protect their drinking water. The suit announced today seeks a forward-looking fix to Flint’s lead-contamination crisis, making it different from the class action suits that have been announced previously that seek damages for harms already suffered by Flint residents.