The people of Flint, Michigan, are suing Governor Snyder, the city of Flint, and the state for injuries obtained from drinking lead-contaminated water — water which was been known to be harmful, yet which went ignored. As a result of this blatant shunning of public health, there have been legionnaires’ disease outbreaks (87 since June 2014 to be exact, 10 of which have led to death).(1)
Now, residents are clamping down.
Enough is enough.
Some 31,000 Flint residents have had it with their concerns being brushed under the carpet. They’ve gone on too long with shoulder-shrugging moments like those stemming from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), who said it “cannot conclude that the increase is related to the water emergency in Flint” but is approaching the situation with “urgency.” They don’t understand why they’ve been paying — and in some instances, still do pay for — this unacceptable water. And of course they’ve had it with their lives being destroyed, falling ill themselves while watching friends and family succumb to serious problems created by the lead-laden water.(1)
Flint ‘has failed’ its residents, deceiving and poisoning them
According to the suit,[PDF] “the decision to replace safe drinking water with poisonous water” is cited, as are statements that outline the city’s breaching of contractual obligations despite city residents upholding “their end of the bargain by continuing to pay for drinking water that they cannot drink.” The suit declares that “the City has failed to provide drinkable water to Plaintiffs from April 2014 to present.”(2)
That’s right, early 2014. Ever since, the residents of Flint have been grappling with this problem, its severity often falling on deaf ears.
Here’s some background information about what’s been going on in Michigan, leading up to the current lawsuit. Sadly, it’s beyond disturbing.
What went wrong… A look back
Basically, Governor Rick Snyder’s administration was aware of water quality problems in Flint. Even so, Snyder’s emergency manager disconnected the city from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department in 2014 in an effort to save money. This meant that residents were provided with Flint River water instead. Soon thereafter, residents began noticing some horrible odors and strange colors in their drinking water.(3)
“Since Flint started providing us with water from the Flint River, my water has turned bluish-green from all the copper in the water, the levels of lead have quadrupled and we have been notified about high levels of toxic chemicals,” said Flint resident Melissa Mays. “Members of my community have been reporting cases of lead poisoning, and many neighbors have reported that their hair is falling out because of our toxic water. Due to the high levels of copper in my water, I am suffering from osteoarthritis and bone spurs at the age of 36.”(3)
Then, as is often common when residents shine a light on a health problem brought on by decisions made by the powers that be, their concerns went ignored. Even when they were brought to the attention of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Snyder administration itself, even when officials were aware of contamination in the drinking water, residents were told to relax. That weird-colored water that’s been making you ill? It’s perfectly safe, these people were repeatedly told.(3)
Although the water system was switched back in October 2015, the fact remains that people suffered devastating health consequences and related financial strains — which they’re still experiencing. Furthermore, the city now faces replacing thousands of lead water pipes, as they should.(3)
A call for the federal government to step in
Reaction to the horrible issue and the lawsuit has been embraced with an “it’s about time” and “good for the citizens” mind set.
Lynna Kaucheck, senior organizer with the advocacy group Food & Water Watch, has called the water problem in Flint “a total abomination,” calling for the federal government to get involved. “Since it’s clear that the Snyder administration cannot adequately address this crisis,” she says, “it’s time the federal government stepped in. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services should declare a state of emergency to give Flint residents the resources they so desperately need.”(1)
Sources for this article include: