More than 1,700 residents of Flint, Michigan are seeking legal compensation in a class-action lawsuit against the U.S. government for the handling of the lead water crisis in their city.
The litigation has been a long time coming for a community that has suffered well over two years with poisoned water, and for most of that time, the state and federal government denied there was a problem at all.
The lawsuit was filed on Monday, and it lists more than 1,700 damaged citizens who claim that the EPA failed at every level of the crisis. The lawsuit alleges that the EPA failed to notify residents soon enough and did little to force state or local officials to take action to mitigate damages.
According to the lawsuit:
“This case involves a major failure on all levels of government to protect the health and safety of the public. Local, state and federal agencies and employees, working individually and at times in concert with each other, mismanaged this environmental catastrophe.”
Already, several local state-appointed emergency managers have been arrested and charged in connection with deliberate decisions to endanger residents’ lives in exchange for cost-cutting procedures. These criminal cases will likely contribute to the lawsuit as well.
Despite the fact that poisoned water in Flint has been common knowledge for about a year, residents have been told that they will likely need to continue drinking bottled water until 2020. Even as lead levels fall below the national threshold, the infrastructure for the new, clean water system will take years to complete.
In the meantime, these residents are hoping to receive compensation for the life-altering effects of lead poisoning. Even if the water became crystal clear tomorrow, the effects of their families being poisoned for an extended period of time will never lessen. Lead poisoning is particularly harmful to children who can experience significant cognitive impairments and learning disabilities as a result.
In short, compensation from the federal government is the least these people are entitled to, especially because their lives and the lives of their children will never be the same.