Class action suit filed by residents over Flint water crisis

FILE - In this Jan. 21, 2016, file photo, vehicles make their way through downtown Flint, Mich. Lead pipes, that contributed to the poisoning of tap water in Flint, are a legacy of an era before scientists realized the severe long-term health consequences of lead exposure, yet they still carry water directly into older homes every day. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

FLINT, Mich. (AP) — A lawsuit stemming from Flint’s lead-contaminated water was filed Monday on behalf of the city’s residents against Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder as well as other current and former government officials and corporations.

The federal lawsuit — which is seeking class-action status — alleges that tens of thousands of residents have suffered physical and economic injuries and damages. It argues officials failed to take action over “dangerous levels of lead” in drinking water and “downplayed the severity of the contamination” in the financially struggling city.

Snyder’s spokesman Ari Adler said the administration doesn’t comment on pending litigation, but is “staying focused on solutions for the people of Flint.”

Numerous lawsuits have been filed on behalf of Flint residents since a public health emergency was declared last year. The latest lawsuit, which seeks a jury trial and unspecified damages, was filed on behalf of seven residents.

Two recall petitions targeting Snyder over the water crisis have been approved. The latest was filed by a Flint activist and approved Monday by the Board of State Canvassers, the Detroit Free Press reported. The other recall petition, filed by a Detroit pastor, was approved last month.

Flint, with a population of about 100,000, had switched from Detroit’s water system to the Flint River as a way to save money until a new pipeline to Lake Huron was ready. But during those 18 months, the corrosive water leached lead from the city’s old plumbing because certain treatments weren’t added to the water.

Snyder, whose administration repeatedly downplayed the lead threat, now calls it a “disaster.”

A report by the state auditor general released Friday found that state environmental regulators made crucial errors as Flint began using the new drinking water source that would become contaminated with lead. It says staffers in the Department of Environmental Quality’s drinking water office failed to order the city to treat its water with anti-corrosion chemicals as it switched to the river in April 2014, but also said the rules they failed to heed may not be strong enough to protect the public.

The report came as crews in the city started to dig up old pipes connecting water mains to homes.

No level of lead in the human body is considered safe, especially in children. The river water also may have been a source of Legionnaires’ disease, which killed at least nine people in the region.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver announced Sunday that Union Labor Life Insurance Co. committed to bring $25 million in low-cost loans to help remove lead pipes and improve water quality. She said the loans will help her Fast Start initiative that’s designed to replace all lead service lines in the city.

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