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Monday, July 22, 2024 | Back issues
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Michiganders Say Flint Water Was Toxic

DETROIT (CN) - Central Michigan citizens claim in court that a city government put them in danger by exposing them to drinking water with high levels of lead.

Six Flint, Mich., residents filed the federal class action on Nov. 13, seeking class status and damages for prolonged exposure to dangerous water.

The suit, also filed on behalf of four children, alleges that the City of Flint began pumping water from the Flint River in April 2014 to save money, and that the water caused health problems like high levels of cooper in blood, hair loss and chronic throat problems.

Soon after the switch, residents began holding public demonstrations, calling for a reconnection to the city's old Detroit water supply, according to the lawsuit.

The city and 14 governmental officials named as defendants ignored growing public concerns over the safety of the water, the lawsuit states.

Defendant Gerald Ambrose, who worked as Flint's emergency manager until April of this year, rejected a March city council vote to reconnect to the Detroit water system, according to the complaint.

The residents also say that Flint officials knew as early as 2011 that the river water was dangerous, and that, without proper additives, it would leach lead and copper from the surrounding pipes.

Despite the warnings, citizens were exposed to water with high levels of lead for about 18 months, and unused anti-corrosive agent would have only cost the city $60 a day, according to the lawsuit.

Michael Steinberg, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, said in a statement that Flint's actions were "harmful and misguided," in addition to being illegal.

"In their short-sighted effort to save a buck, the leaders who were supposed to be protecting Flint's citizens instead left them exposed to dangerously high levels of lead contamination," Steinberg said.

One resident, 52 year-old Rhonda Kelso, claims that she and her special-needs daughter, identified in court documents as K.E.K., drank the toxic water from April 2014 until the fall of 2015.

Kelso claims that she suffered aggravation of her asthma and that K.E.K.'s developmental disorders were worsened by exposure to the water. She also says that her home suffered massive water pipe damage.

Last month, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who is a defendant, ordered to switch Flint back to the Detroit water system. He also formed a task force to better monitor the water situation.

"Transitioning back to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department-Great Lakes Water Authority is a good first step to protecting public health in Flint, but it's not the last step," Snyder said in a statement. "Bringing in outside experts to evaluate our actions and help monitor and advise on potential changes to law, procedures and practices will be key to continuing work on the comprehensive action plan and ensuring safe drinking water for all the residents in Flint and all of Michigan."

Despite the city and state's recent efforts, the litigating residents say the damage has been done. They want property repairs, the creation of a medical monitoring fund and punitive damages.

The residents are represented by Michael Pitt of Royal Oak, Mich.

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