Environmental Law

Lawsuit claiming EPA negligence in Flint water crisis can move forward, judge says

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A federal judge ruled last week that Flint, Michigan, residents can move forward with a lawsuit filed against the government over the city’s water crisis.

The residents sued the Environmental Protection Agency for allegedly mishandling the crisis in 2017, and District Judge Linda Parker of the Eastern District of Michigan said the federal government is not immune from legal action in the case, according to the Detroit News. CNN, ABC News and Courthouse News Service also have coverage.

“The impact on the health of the nearly 100,000 residents of the city of Flint remains untold,” Parker wrote in the opinion, filed April 18. “It is anticipated, however, that the injury caused by the lead-contaminated public water supply system will affect the residents for years and likely generations to come.”

The lawsuit claims that EPA officials negligently responded, including by failing to “timely investigate, provide technical assistance, obtain compliance or commence a civil action.” It also claims that officials failed to warn residents about health risks posed by the water, according to the opinion. More than a dozen lawsuits also were filed against Michigan and the city of Flint after the city’s water was found to be contaminated with lead in 2014 and 2015, CNN reports.

While Parker did not rule on the EPA’s negligence, she wrote in the opinion that the “EPA was well aware that the Flint River was highly corrosive and posed a significant danger of lead leaching out of the city’s lead-based service lines at alarming rates into residents’ homes.”

“The EPA was well aware of the health risks posed by lead exposure, particularly to children and pregnant women,” she added.

Parker also said in the opinion that the EPA knew that state and local officials were misleading Flint residents about lead in their water.

“These lies went on for months while the people of Flint continued to be poisoned,” Parker said.

See also:

ABA Journal: “The Flint Water Crisis: A Timeline”

ABA Journal: “Who’s to blame for poisoning of Flint’s water?”

ABAJournal.com: “Five Michigan officials charged with involuntary manslaughter in Flint water debacle”

ABAJournal.com: “Emergency managers are charged in Flint water debacle”

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