BALTIMORE — The NAACP has filed a federal class action lawsuit on behalf of people and businesses affected by the failure to provide safe drinking water to the city of Flint, Mich..
The civil suit filed in U.S. District Court alleges that the state of Michigan, many city and state officials and two engineering firms hired to evaluate water quality in Flint failed to detect problems and properly treat water that caused extensive lead contamination in the city while Flint was under supervision of state-appointed emergency managers.
The plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit include Flint residents and members of the local branch of the NAACP, whose national attorneys are working with the firms of Cohen Milstein Sellers and Toll of Washington, D.C. and the Houston-based firm of Susman Godfrey.
The complaint seeks property damages, pain and suffering damages, emotional distress damages, medical monitoring, and other injunctive relief for affected city residents and businesses to be determined by the court.
“The people of Flint have been harmed through the failure of state officials to provide professional and accountable basic services mandated by federal law and expected by any person living in a major city,” said Cornell William Brooks, the national president and CEO of the NAACP. “Our organization stands with the citizens of Flint to demand a clear timeline, deadline and price tag for fixing this crisis as well as effective remedies for the harms that have already occurred and complete compensation for each and every victim of this unimaginable tragedy.”
Governor Rick Snyder is named as an individual defendant in the suit, along with six former high-ranking officials with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and three men who were emergency managers during the prolonged exposure period. Two engineering firms hired to analyze water in the city, Lockwood, Andrews and Newnam Inc. and Veolia North America, also failed to satisfy their professional duties and affirmatively worsened the extent of the lead exposure, according to the complaint.
The 103-page complaint alleges that the officials and companies supervising the water system failed to properly treat the water supply for salt and other chemicals, which caused lead to leech from corroded pipes into the drinking water for years. Officials repeatedly denied and dismissed reports of poor water quality and pipe corrosion before acknowledging widespread failures to act.
The NAACP’s Flint Branch and Michigan State Conference have diligently worked over the last two years to inform the public about the poisoned water and its potential effects on city children and residents, and called for federal and state action to provide relief.
The NAACP and attorneys in the case are planning to host Town Hall meetings with residents in the near future in Flint to discuss further action.