The contaminated water crisis in Flint, Michigan is far from over. A class action lawsuit was filed in February by a well known Baltimore lawyer. Attorney William H. “Billy” Murphy Jr. is the lawyer who negotiated the 6.4 million dollar settlement between the city of Baltimore and the family of Freddie Gray after his death in police custody. Now he has set his eyes on Flint, Michigan.
Murphy and Flint attorney Val Washington filed the lawsuit last month in U.S. District Court in eastern Michigan. The lawsuit calls for the city and state to refund $150 million in water bills paid by affected Flint residents during the time the water was being drawn from the contaminated river. In fact data from the Detroit Free Press show that Flint residents paid the most for water compared to the 500 cities with the largest water systems.
The suit also seeks compensation for what Murphy says are “all of the damages that are a consequence of having to be forced to use dangerous water, and includes the cost of changing the interior plumbing in every house, and hot water heaters.”
The water supply in Flint has been switched back to Detroit’s water system but it may be too little too late. State officials and residents alike are worried that the lead in the water may have done too much damage to pipes in the city’s homes and businesses. Lead poisoning is known to cause learning disabilities and behavioral problems in children who have been affected.
The lawsuit names not only the city of Flint and state of Michigan but a slew of public officials as well as defendants. Among those listed by name are former mayor Dayne Walling, Governor Rick Snyder, Flint Emergency Managers Darnell Early and Gerald Ambrose. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services are named in the suit as well.
The lawsuit claims the city and state violated the residents’ rights by providing them with contaminated water and then telling them the water was safe. It also accuses the officials of of conspiring to cover up the problem even as residents were being poisoned. Emails have surfaced showing that Flint officials trucked in water for the state buildings as local residents had contaminated waters pumped into their homes and businesses.
Governor Snyder testified before congress earlier this month on the crisis in Flint.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5NSrAMF6rk]
Two years after the city of Flint’s water supply was switched to being pumped from the Flint river residents are drinking and bathing with bottled water. Bottled water has been being trucked into the city for months, ever since the water crisis came to public attention.
On Friday Gov. Rick Snyder announced that FEMA has approved the state of Michigan’s request to extend a presidential emergency declaration for the city of Flint and Genesee County until Aug. 14, 2016. The extension authorizes federal supplies of bottled water, water filters, replacement cartridges and test kits to continue for another four months to ensure the health and safety of Flint residents. FEMA noted this is the final extension and no further extensions will be granted.
Earlier this week Governor Snyder laid out a 75 point plan to get the city back on track. His plans State of Michigan Goals to Strengthen Flint can be found HERE. Under Snyder’s plan, some pipes would be removed as part of a pilot program which is contrary to the demands of Flint residents, that all the pipes be replaced. Flint residents and many political leaders have said that Snyder needs to resign or be fired.
“I want to solve the problem in Flint. So that’s my focal point,” Gov. Snyder said. “Glad to get 75 points out there that we’re going to work on putting in place.”
An independent panel appointed by Governor Snyder himself released their findings this week on the water crisis in Flint. The report found that the crisis is as they put it “is a story of government failure, intransigence, unpreparedness, delay, inaction and environmental injustice.” The panel found fault in employees on almost every level of state government. The panel also found that “The facts of the Flint water crisis lead us to the inescapable conclusion that this is a case of environmental injustice.”
“Flint residents, who are majority black or African-American and among the most impoverished of any metropolitan area in the United States, did not enjoy the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards as that provided to other communities,” the report concluded.
The panel in essence has said the same thing many have said watching this play out in the news and on television. Many have said that the complaints of residents were ignored because they were mostly Black and no one cared. Why doesn’t everyone deserve the same clean drinking water?
The 116-page report faulted local Flint officials and the federal Environmental Protection Agency, and concluded that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality had “primary responsibility for the water contamination in Flint and caused this crisis to happen.”
The panel made 44 recommendations, including that the governor’s office review the state’s emergency manager law, that environmental regulations be clarified, and that the governor’s office improve its method of assessing information. It also pointed out the inadequate funding of government services which leads to a slower response to problems and residents needs.
This situation is far from over. The water is expected to be back to drinkable soon but it doesn’t change the damage done. It doesn’t make well those who have been affected by this contaminated water. This situation is one to keep a close eye on.
The conversation we’re all having these day? Is it just Flint or is our city next?