Residents of Flint, Michigan are challenging the EPA in a class-action lawsuit they filed yesterday (January 30). They’re demanding at least $722.4 million for the agency’s failure to take appropriate action to address the city’s water crisis that left nearly 100,000 residents at risk of drinking and using lead-tainted water.
The lawsuit lists 1,704 plaintiffs, naming one: Jan Burgess. She was the first to notify the EPA of the city’s water problems, The Detroit News reports. The suit follows former claims from Burgess, including the first filed April 25, 2016, for “personal and property damages arising out of the EPA’s negligent handling of the Flint Water Crisis.” Garnering no EPA response—even after filing amended claims that brought more individuals into the matter—Burgess and her 1,703 fellow Flint residents took further action with this latest legal blow.
Their complaint states:
The EPA failed to follow several specific agency mandates and directives governing its conduct, which resulted in injury to the CLAIMANTS. Upon notice of a contaminant in the water system, which presents a substantial and imminent danger, the EPA is required to first determine whether the state and local agency is taking timely action protective of public health. If timely and protective action is not being taken, the EPA is required to bring a Section 1431 emergency action. However, despite notice of the danger as early as October 2014, the EPA failed to take the mandatory steps to determine that Michigan and Flint authorities were not taking appropriate action to protect the public from toxic water and failed to file the emergency Section 1431 action until January 2016.
The plaintiffs note that the agency’s negligence has caused them physical injury, illness, lead poisoning, skin rash, hair loss and out-of-pocket spending. The agency’s office of inspector general issued a report in October 2016 that called out the EPA’s inaction: Officials had enough information as early as June 2015 to issue an emergency order, but they did not.
Now, residents continue to deal with the disaster’s fallout: Flint is still rebuilding its pipe infrastructure to bring safe water into homes, meaning families must rely on filtered or bottled water until construction is finished. The water became contaminated after the city switched water sources in 2014 but failed to add a corrosion-control chemical that would protect the old pipes from leaching lead into the water.