Nov 16, 2015

Residents of Flint, Mich., to Sue City, State Over Lead in Drinking Water

Groups begin legal process to stop ongoing violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act

Flint Michigan ACLU Natural Resources Defense Council drinking water lead

Residents of Flint, Mich., together with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan and the Natural Resources Defense Council, announced their intention to sue state and city officials for ongoing violations of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act amid the city’s current lead contamination.

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 eschew Detroit's water supply in favor of using the Flint River as the city’s primary drinking water source. Not long after the switch, residents began to complain about the smell and discoloration of the water and, later, physical ailments stemming from the tainted water.

Water tests conducted by experts from Virginia Tech indicated elevated levels of lead in the city's drinking water, and a study by a local pediatrician that showed that the proportion of Flint children with elevated blood lead levels had doubled since the city switched water sources. In October, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder recommedned that Flint stop using the river water and return to the Detroit water system.

Despite this move, though, 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, the groups claim.

The Notice of Intent to Sue was served on behalf of Concerned Pastors for Social Action, an association of religious leaders from Flint; Melissa Mays, a Flint resident; the ACLU of Michigan; and the Natural Resources Defense Council. The groups allege that since April 2014, the city of Flint and Michigan state officials have failed to monitor and control for lead in Flint’s drinking water and maintain a program to assist Michigan schools with lead testing and remediation, in violation of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. If city of Flint and Michigan state officials—including Gov. Rick Snyder and Dan Wyant, director of Michigan Department of Environmental Quality—do not remedy violations under the Safe Drinking Water Act within 60 days, the groups intend to file a lawsuit in federal court.

The Notice of Intent to Sue is required under the Safe Drinking Water Act as a prerequisite to filing suit.