Lawsuits pile up over Flint water crisis

Annie Baxter Jan 20, 2016

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder apologized for a contaminated water crisis in his State of the State speech Tuesday night and promised to release emails to and from him concerning the crisis.

Meanwhile, lawsuits against public officials and entities in Michigan are starting to pile up.

A money-saving move to switch water sources in Flint in 2014 exposed residents to lead-tainted water, which is now being blamed for lead poisoning in children, along with other illnesses.

The class-action suits allege public officials kept the lead-tainted water flowing despite evidence of problems.

“For instance, there were individuals within the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality who knew about the problem,” said Michael Pitt, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys. “They knew about the lead in the water and failed to do anything about it.”

Pitt said a suit filed Tuesday in district court goes after some of the low level government workers who lack immunity. It also asks that Flint residents not be charged for water that’s unfit to drink.

Since high level officials have broad immunity in Michigan, Pitt said claimants had to sue them in a case filed federally in November.

He said a third lawsuit puts the state of Michigan on the hook for alleged misconduct.

The plaintiffs in the suits have yet to be certified as a class, a key step.

Meanwhile, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said he’s asking lawmakers for $28 million to address the water crisis in Flint. Some of the funds would help pay for immediate health and water needs. 

Even though residents have been getting water once again from Lake Huron, a safe source, since October, the pipes in Flint have been damaged and could still leach lead.

The city’s 100,000 residents still have to use filters or drink bottled water and are advised against bathing in the water.

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.