Arguments were heard in Detroit’s federal District Court in a lawsuit claiming that the State of Michigan and the City of Flint are moving too slowly to resolve Flint’s water crisis. Residents in the city are still using bottled water for drinking, cooking and bathing. Federal officials claim the water is safe to drink if it is filtered, but they recommend that pregnant women and children under six not drink the water.
U.S. District Judge David Lawson will decide whether the case, brought by Flint resident Melissa Mays, Concerned Pastors for Social Action and the ACLU of Michigan, will go forward. The option is to dismiss the lawsuit and allow an emergency order by the Environmental Protection Agency to continue to govern the issue.
Assistant Attorney General Michael Murphy argues that the court should defer to the EPA’s emergency order, issued on January 21. “The EPA is on the ground managing the water situation,” Murphy said. “They are doing this on a daily basis. We’re doing what we are told to do.”
The plaintiffs’ attorney, Dimple Chaudhary, was less optimistic about the EPA’s handling of the matter. “They have not found violations of [the Safe Drinking Water Act], issued no findings of liability or compliance. The order doesn’t say anything about replacing lead service lines.”
The heart of the matter is that many Flint residents understandably want their lead service pipes replaced, and the state and city do not want to pay for it. “It may be the only way to protect the people’s health,” Chaudhary told Lawson. “Pipes continue to leach lead. Lead is not minimized. There is continued harm to the residents of Flint,” she said.
Chaudhary also pointed out that her office filed a petition with the EPA to hurry its process, noting that it took the agency three months to issue the order after it was requested. Murphy told the judge that the three-month delay was not evidence that the agency was ignoring the people of Flint.
“It depends on whether you are trying to take a shower in your own home or not,” Lawson responded.
Mays, the lead plaintiff in the case, remained hopeful that her suit would be allowed to go forward against the city and the state. “They are the responsible parties,” Mays said. “They are the ones we have to go to for help. At the end of the day, residents need relief, and they need it now.”
Photo source: swtimes.com