Residents of Flint, Michigan, have filed a class-action lawsuit against the state’s governor and others alleging gross negligence for causing the city’s drinking water to become contaminated with lead, according to the Associated Press.
The lawsuit named Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and other current and former government officials, as well as corporations, for their role in the water crisis.
The lawsuit, filed by 7 residents, claim that tens of thousands of residents have suffered physical and economic injuries and damages due to the contamination. The suit also states that officials downplayed the severity of the contamination.
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.
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.”