Campaigners plan to sue over lead in Flint’s drinking water

Nov. 17, 2015

The two groups allege that dangerous amounts of lead leached out of the city’s pipes and into the drinking water of Flint’s homes and schools for more than a year.

FLINT, Mich. — Nov. 16, 2015 — Campaign groups in Flint, Michigan, are planning to take legal action against city and state officials over lead levels in the city’s drinking water, according to a press release.

Residents of Flint, together with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan, announced on Monday that they had served a Notice of Intent to Sue, alleging ongoing violations of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

A lawsuit would force officials to address “repeated, systemic failures” to follow federal rules designed to protect the public from dangerous levels of lead exposure, they said in the release.

“In their short-sighted effort to save a buck, the leaders who were supposed to be protecting Flint’s citizens instead left them exposed to dangerously high levels of lead contamination,” claimed Michael Steinberg, legal director for the ACLU of Michigan, in a release. “Not only were the city and state’s actions dangerous and misguided. They were illegal, too.”

“This action is about holding the government accountable for failing to protect the public health of an entire community,” added Anjali Waikar, an environmental justice staff attorney at NRDC in the release. “This case also highlights a troubling trend in which the government is willing to cut costs at the expense of its most vulnerable citizens.”

The two groups allege that dangerous amounts of lead leached out of the city’s pipes and into the drinking water of Flint’s homes and schools for more than a year following a decision by Flint officials to switch the city’s water supply the Flint River, noted the release.

NRDC said in a statement that Flint officials insisted for several months that the water was safe, but tests conducted by experts from Virginia Tech proved otherwise, and a study by a local pediatrician showed that the proportion of Flint children with elevated blood lead levels had doubled since the city changed its primary source of drinking water.

NRDC and ACLU of Michigan claim that, despite returning to the Detroit water system, city and state officials have continued to violate federal legal requirements for monitoring and sampling tap water for lead, notifying the public about water-testing results and maintaining corrosion control from Flint’s lead pipes, reported the release.

City of Flint and Michigan state officials have 60 days to remedy the alleged violations under the Safe Drinking Water Act, or the groups intend to file a lawsuit in federal court.

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