Supreme Court Okay’s Flint Residents Suing City Officials

LeeAnne Walters displays tap water samples at a public meeting in January 2015. Ryan Garza/Detroit Free Press/ZUMA, Fair Use

The Hill – The Supreme Court will allow a lawsuit to move forward against Flint, Mich., officials over their role in the city’s public health crisis.

After the city’s 2014 decision to change water sources from Lake Huron to the Flint River, which had been widely considered to be contaminated, Flint residents reported widespread cases of hair loss, skin rashes, Legionnaire’s disease and lead poisoning.

Twelve people died from Legionnaire’s disease in the aftermath.

The case was brought in 2016 by Shari Guertin, a Flint resident whose child drank the lead-contaminated water. The defendants are the city of Flint and three of its former employees.

The defendants “created the Flint Water environmental disaster and then intentionally attempted to cover-up their grievous decision. Their actions shock our conscience,” Judge Richard A. Griffin wrote in an opinion. Read more. 

Background … 

Meet the Mom Who Helped Expose Flint’s Toxic Water Nightmare

LeeAnne Walters’ tap water tested at 27 times the EPA limit for lead. The city offered her a garden hose.

Jan 21, 2016

Mother Jones – On a chilly evening last March in Flint, Michigan, LeeAnne Walters was getting ready for bed when she heard her daughter shriek from the bathroom of the family’s two-story clapboard house.

She ran upstairs to find 18-year-old Kaylie standing in the shower, staring at a clump of long brown hair that had fallen from her head.

Walters, a 37-year-old mother of four, was alarmed but not surprised—the entire family was losing hair. There had been other strange maladies over the previous few months: The twins, three-year-old Gavin and Garrett, kept breaking out in rashes. Gavin had stopped growing.

On several occasions, 14-year-old JD had suffered abdominal pains so severe that Walters took him to the hospital. At one point, all of LeeAnne’s own eyelashes fell out.

The family was suffering from the effects of lead in Flint’s water supply—contamination that will have long-term, irreversible neurological consequences on the city’s children.

The exposure has quietly devastated Flint since April 2014, when, in an effort to cut costs, a state-appointed emergency manager switched the city’s water source from Detroit’s water system over to the Flint River.

Elected officials toasted the change with glasses of water, but some longtime residents were skeptical, particularly since Flint-based General Motors had once used the river as a dumping ground.

“I thought it was one of those Onion articles,” said Rhonda Kelso, a 52-year-old Flint native. “We already knew the Flint River was toxic waste.”

The lead exposure persisted for 17 months, despite repeated complaints from residents of this majority-black city.

It is in no small part thanks to Walters, a no-nonsense stay-at-home mom with a husband in the Navy, that the Flint situation is now a full-blown national scandal complete with a class-action lawsuit … Read more. 

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