New lawsuit seeks replacement of Flint’s lead pipes

Environmental and civil rights groups want a federal judge to order the prompt replacement of all lead pipes in Flint's water system to ensure that residents have a safe drinking supply, a demand that Gov. Rick Snyder said on Wednesday might be a long-term option but not an immediate one.

FLINT, Mich. — Environmental and civil rights groups want a federal judge to order the prompt replacement of all lead pipes in Flint’s water system to ensure that residents have a safe drinking supply, a demand that Gov. Rick Snyder said on Wednesday might be a long-term option but not an immediate one.

A lawsuit filed Wednesday seeks an order forcing city and state officials to remedy alleged violations of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, including a failure to properly treat the water for corrosion, test it for lead, notify residents of results and accurately report if the correct sample sites are being selected. Flint residents are currently unable to drink unfiltered tap water, and tests have shown high lead levels in some children’s blood.

“The only way to permanently and completely fix the problem of lead in drinking water is to conduct the full replacement of the lead-containing pipes and solder in a water system,” said Sarah Tallman, a lawyer with the Natural Resources Defence Council. The group filed the complaint on behalf of citizens along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, the Concerned Pastors for Social Action and Melissa Mays, a Flint resident.

Snyder’s administration has estimated it could cost up to $55 million to repair what officials have estimated are 15,000 damaged lead service lines leading from water mains to homes and other buildings. The complaint says the pipes should be replaced at no cost to customers.

The governor, speaking at a news conference in Flint, said “a lot of work is being done to even understand where the lead services lines fully are. … The short-term issue is about recoating the pipes and that will be based on third-party experts saying the water is safe.”

He announced that the state will have an increased administrative presence in Flint and called it the beginning of a long-term effort. And Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said she hired a Virginia Tech professor whose extensive testing helped bring the city’s lead problems to light.

Marc Edwards will oversee all water testing done by the state and federal governments. She added that he will be “fully independent,” report to her and get paid through private donations.

She also touched on the issue of residents’ water bills. A House-passed spending bill pending in the state Senate includes $3 million to help the city with unpaid water bills.

“Flint residents should not have to pay for water they did not and are not using,” Weaver said. “Once we have more accurate numbers from the Flint water department, we will revisit what is right for our citizens.”

It remains unclear when residents will be able to resume drinking unfiltered water.

State Department of Environmental Quality Interim Director Keith Creagh said water samples show “things are trending better,” but he stressed they are not statistically valid because he cannot guarantee homeowner-provided samples are from homes at more risk — those with lead pipes or with no filters.

“Now we need to figure out … is there a protective barrier” being recoated on the inside of the lead lines by anti-corrosion chemicals, Creagh said. “Yes or no? … We’re not going to guess.”

He said officials are working to identify neighbourhoods with no lead pipes, so those residents can get the all clear on their water.

It remains unclear how badly the pipes were damaged after the decision in 2014 to use the Flint River as the city’s drinking water source without adding a chemical to control corrosion. That caused lead to leech into the water for a year and a half and contributed to the spike in child lead exposure before state and officials fully acknowledged the problem in early October.

Flint has reconnected to Detroit’s water system while awaiting the completion of a new pipeline from Lake Huron.

The suit expresses doubt about whether the city can maintain optimal corrosion treatment when it switches to the new water source later this year.

Much of the blame for the emergency has been put on the state Department of Environmental Quality because staff told Flint water officials not to treat it for corrosion until after two six-month monitoring periods. But the suit also focuses on problems with the city’s monitoring of lead. It alleges the city is not providing comprehensive, reliable information to identify locations with lead lines and is under-testing homes with a higher risk of lead exposure.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last week issued an emergency order directing the state to take actions to protect public health and said it would begin sampling and analyzing lead levels.

At least three other suits have been filed since the crisis was exposed in the fall. Two seek class-action status and financial compensation another asks a judge to declare that users do not have to pay their water bills.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre's expansion project is still a high priority, says Alberta Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer hospital ICU admissions stable, says surgeon

The Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre’s intensive care unit is in better… Continue reading

Alberta recorded a single-day record of over 57,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered. (Photo courtesy Alberta Health Services Twitter)
Alberta hits daily record of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered

Central zone has administered 111,735 doses of the COVID-19

Alberta reported an additional 1,980 cases of COVID-19 Friday. (NIAID-RML via AP)
Red Deer adds 37th death from COVID-19, active cases drop

Alberta Health identified an additional 1,980 cases of the virus province-wide

A rodeo south of Bowden drew a huge crowd on May 1 and 2, 2021. (Photo courtesy Mom’s Diner’s Facebook page)
FILE - A firefighter wears a mask as he drives his truck. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward, File
VIDEO: Flames rip through Edmonton-area seniors complex, but no fatalities

ST. ALBERT, Alta. — Fire has destroyed part of a retirement complex… Continue reading

Jennifer Coffman, owner of Truffle Pigs in Field, B.C., poses beside her business sign on Thursday, May 6, 2021, in this handout photo. Her restaurant and lodge have been hit hard by a closure of a section of the Trans-Canada Highway and by the British Columbia government discouraging Alberta residents from visiting during the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Jennifer Coffman, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
‘Why we survive’: B.C. boundary towns struggle without Albertans during pandemic

Jennifer Coffman didn’t expect to get hit with a double whammy at… Continue reading

A courtroom at the Edmonton Law Courts building, in Edmonton on Friday, June 28, 2019. The effect of the coronavirus pandemic will have a lasting impact on the Canadian justice system warn a number of legal experts. The Alberta Court of Queen's Bench announced Sunday it would adjourn all scheduled trials across the province for at least 10-weeks limiting hearings to only emergency or urgent matters. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton mother found guilty of manslaughter in death of five-year-old girl

EDMONTON — An Edmonton woman was found guilty Friday of manslaughter in… Continue reading

A Statistics Canada 2016 Census mailer sits on the key board of a laptop after arriving in the mail at a residence in Ottawa, May 2, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Statistics Canada sees more demand to fill out census online during pandemic

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says the response to the census is higher… Continue reading

Travellers, who are not affected by new quarantine rules, arrive at Terminal 3 at Pearson Airport in Toronto, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. Ottawa will create a new digital platform to help in processing immigration applications more quickly and efficiently after COVID-19 pandemic underscored the need for a faster shift to a digital immigration system, the immigration department said. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ottawa to create new system to tackle delays in processing immigration applications

Ottawa says it will create a new digital platform to help process… Continue reading

A man on a skateboard and a young woman pass large letters spelling out UBC at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver on November 22, 2015. The federal government is writing off more than $200 million in outstanding student loan payments that officials will never be able to collect. Recently released spending documents show the government won't collect $203.5 million in debts from 34,240 students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. Human Rights Tribunal to hear complaint against UBC Okanagan

VANCOUVER — A B.C. Human Rights Tribunal hearing is set to start… Continue reading

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No winning ticket for Friday’s $25 million Lotto max jackpot

TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the $25 million jackpot… Continue reading

FILE - In this April 19, 2021, file photo, Keidy Ventura, 17, receives her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in West New York, N.J. States across the country are dramatically scaling back their COVID-19 vaccine orders as interest in the shots wanes, putting the goal of herd immunity further out of reach. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
States scale back vaccine orders as interest in shots wanes

MADISON, Wis. — States asked the federal government this week to withhold… Continue reading

Toronto FC coach Chris Armas talks with his players during a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal second leg soccer match against Mexico's Cruz Azul at Azteca stadium in Mexico City, Tuesday, May 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Fernando Llano
Toronto FC coach Chris Armas returns to Red Bull Arena to face former team

Toronto FC coach Chris Armas returns to Red Bull Arena to face former team

Most Read