Flint Water Crisis Prompts Legal Action
With national outrage still going strong over the water crisis in Flint, one thing millions of people want to know is what’s going to be done to help those who have been injured by drinking the city’s lead-contaminated water. Tens of thousands of Flint residents were stuck with drinking water that contained dangerous levels of lead and if they haven’t already started having health problems as a result, there’s still a chance they could have problems later on in life. Rather than wait for government officials to step up and do something about it, some residents are attempting to take action themselves by filing lawsuits.
The first lawsuit related to the Flint water crisis was filed in November 2015. This was a class action lawsuit involving four different families accusing 14 different state and city officials, including Governor Rick Snyder, former Flint Mayor Dayne Walling, and former Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley, of intentional negligence. The families involved in the suit say they have all suffered from health problems as a result of drinking the toxic water, including hypertension, autoimmune disorders, skin lesions, convulsions, hair loss, and “brain fog.”
Another lawsuit was filed against McLaren Flint Hospital and the state of Michigan on February 1, 2016 on behalf of four residents of Genesee County who believe they developed Legionnaires’ disease after being exposed to it at McLaren Flint Hospital. Legionnaires’ disease is spread by inhaling mist or steam that comes from water contaminated with Legionella bacteria. An outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease started in the Flint area shortly after the source of its drinking water in was changed in April 2014. Over 80 people were impacted by the outbreak, 10 of whom died as a result.
About two weeks before this lawsuit was filed, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services stated they had not yet determined a conclusive link between the change in water source and the Legionnaire’s outbreak. The attorney handling the lawsuit stated that McLaren Flint Hospital should have done more to protect the patients.
Most recently, another lawsuit against was filed against Rick Snyder, Darnell Earley, Dayne Walling, and other state and city officials on behalf of two-year-old Sophia Rodriguez-Waid. Luke Waid, Sophia’s father, says his daughter went from being an energetic and bright child to constantly seeming irritable and anxious, a change he says coincides with the decision to change the source of Flint’s drinking water.
According to Luke Waid, Sophia’s blood-lead levels were perfectly healthy when Flint began getting its drinking water from the Flint River in April 2014. Within four months, her blood-lead levels had skyrocketed to 14 micrograms per deciliter. The Centers for Disease Control considers 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter to be “high.” The family did everything they could to get rid of every possible source of lead in the home, but it wasn’t until they moved in with a relative that used well water that Sophia’s blood-lead levels started to come down.
Like many other parents of young children in Flint, Waid is concerned about what long-term effects Sophia might have to deal with. Lead poisoning can be particularly dangerous for children under the age of 6 since their central nervous systems are less developed. Hyperactivity and difficulty learning are just a couple of problems children who have been exposed to lead might encounter. Waid says Sophia already has a difficult time concentrating and learning new things.
These aren’t the only lawsuits to be filed so far over the Flint water crisis. Not all of the lawsuits that have been filed over the water crisis have to do with health problems caused by the water, either. In late January 2016, a federal lawsuit was filed by the ACLU of Michigan, Concerned Pastors for Social Action, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and a Flint resident requesting that a U.S. District Court order that all lead pipes in the city of Flint be replaced at no cost to Flint residents. Another lawsuit was also filed in January asking that the state of Michigan be held liable for the loss in property values that residents are facing as a result of the contaminated water.
To prevent similar incidents happening in other cities, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on February 10, 2016 called The Safe Drinking Water Act Improved Compliance Awareness Act. This bill would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to find ways to improve communication between water utility companies, the EPA, and the state. The bill would also require consumers to be notified when high levels of lead are found in the water.