In Flint, Michigan, a coalition of national groups and local citizens has filed a federal lawsuit demanding the state and city governments replace all of the lead pipes in Flint’s water system. Citing the Safe Drinking Water Act, the suit argues that officials neglected to treat the water for corrosion, test for the presence of lead, or notify residents of the results. The lead contamination in the city’s water has become so bad that both Governor Rick Snyder and President Obama have declared a state of emergency.
The plaintiffs include the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, Concerned Pastors for Social Action, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Melissa Mays, a resident of Flint. The lawsuit isn’t seeking any monetary damages — but that doesn’t mean the fix will come cheap for the state of Michigan. Due to the damage done by the corrosive water of the Flint River, simply switching to another water source isn’t enough to resolve the crisis. One estimate puts the cost of replacing the 500 miles worth of dangerous pipes at at whopping $1.5 billion.
In a press release, Dimple Chaudhary of the NRDC explained the reasoning behind the decision to file suit in federal court: “The water in Flint is still not safe to drink because City and State officials are violating the federal law that protects drinking water. In doing so, they are exposing the people of Flint to lead, a powerful toxin that can be devastating to young children. We are asking a federal court to step in because the people of Flint simply cannot rely on the same government agencies that oversaw the destruction of its infrastructure and contamination of its water to address this crisis.”
Considering that the lead contamination was completely avoidable and largely the result of local officials attempting to cut costs, the fact that these groups don’t trust them to resolve the issue seems entirely reasonable. You can read the complete legal complaint here.