Michigan Governor and the City of Flint sued in class action by residents

Posted on: January 22nd, 2016 by Steve Larson

waterMichigan Governor Rick Snyder, the City of Flint and various other state and local government agencies are facing two new class actions over their alleged mishandling of a water quality crisis that endangered the health of thousands of city residents.  The first suit targets Snyder, the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and two individual emergency managers. The second suit names Flint, the city’s Receivership Transition Advisory Board and various officials as defendants.

Both suits seek financial compensation for the crisis, which exposed Flint residents to water contaminated with lead, E. coli. and other contaminants.

Class members who owned property in the city are claiming an unjust and unconstitutional taking of their property without fair compensation. Known as an inverse condemnation action, the complaint alleges the state, by its actions, destroyed or impaired the property values in Flint.

The lawsuit against the Governor said the department had information that there was a public health emergency yet sat on the information for more than 10 months, and that the lead poisoning of many of Flint’s children could have been avoided if the department had shared that information with the public.

The lawsuit against the City of Flint alleges the city and its officials were grossly negligent in handling the situation and seeks to revoke water charges for the time period during which the contaminated water was provided to residents.  According to that complaint, the defendants knew since 2011 that use of the Flint River as the public source of water, without a proper anti-corrosive treatment, would create a condition dangerous to health and property.

In April 2014, the city switched its water source from Lake Huron, which was distributed by Detroit, to a new system that draws water from the Flint River. The move was justified as a money-saving measure. Residents quickly began to complain about the water’s smell, taste and color. In August of that year, the water tested positive for Escherichia coli, or E. coli.

In January 2015, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality found unacceptable levels of total trihalomethanes. By February, tests were showing high lead levels way above the EPA’s recommended safety limit. Over the summer, concerns grew as further testing also showed elevated lead levels.