Group sues for Flint home water delivery

by Candice Williams, originally published on March 24, 2016


A group of Flint residents, pastors and national advocacy organizations are asking a federal court to order water delivery to every household in the Flint water system amid ongoing issues with lead-contaminated water.

In a motion for a preliminary injunction filed Thursday in the Eastern District of Michigan, Flint-based Concerned Pastors for Social Action, the ACLU of Michigan and others say they are requesting home delivery because “Flint residents are irreparably harmed by their lack of reliable access to safe drinking water” in the ongoing water crisis.

The lawsuit cites the difficulty Flint residents have in obtaining water for daily needs because of issues including transportation. It’s a concern they see persisting for months.

“We have no choice but to take this action because, despite the government’s promises and efforts thus far, large numbers of Flint residents still lack acceptable access to adequate supplies of clean, safe drinking water,” said Michael Steinberg, ACLU of Michigan Legal director in a statement. “Furthermore, despite the official apologies and vows to fix this crisis, our government officials still have a long way to go to ensure that clean water begins flowing to Flint homes as quickly as possible.”

The motion for preliminary injunction is part of a lawsuit filed Jan. 27 that alleges violations of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act and seeks federal court intervention to secure safe drinking water for Flint residents.

“Despite public pressure and media attention, there are Flint residents who cannot reliably access safe drinking water,” said Dimple Chaudhary, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We are asking the court to order the city of Flint and Michigan state officials to provide every household with bottled water delivery, to ensure all Flint residents have safe water for the duration of this crisis.”

The state said Thursday it is providing daily distribution of filters, water testing kits and cases of water.

Ari B. Adler, director of communications for Gov. Rick Snyder, said the office does not comment on pending litigation, but added that residents can receive unlimited cases of water.

“The state is committed to helping the people of Flint recover from this crisis and to move forward as quickly and safely as possible with restoring quality water service to their homes,” Alder said in an email. “We are now nearing our 80th day of emergency operations and the State Emergency Operations Center remains activated to muster state resources in partnership with local and federal efforts, as well as nonprofit agencies.”

The issues residents have faced in obtaining water from distribution centers include a lack of transportation and frequent trips to receive one case per day, according to the groups. They add some residents are spending hundreds of dollars on bottled water to supplement what they receive from distribution centers.

“After living with this crisis for as long as we have, morale in Flint is very low,” said Pastor Alfred Harris of Saints of God Church in Flint and president of the Concerned Pastors for Social Action. “It is tiring and draining to rely on bottled water day in and day out, and there is no end in sight. I’m not sure that people in Flint will ever have full confidence again that our water is safe to drink.”

Another issue, the group said, is that some members of Flint’s immigrant community are deterred from going to the distribution centers because of the presence of National Guard and other law enforcement.

The group said that some households have had issues with installing and maintaining faucet filters because the equipment doesn’t always fit; for others, the installation instructions are difficult to understand. They contend that some filters have cracked, clogged or broken after one or two weeks.

“I spend my days and weekends distributing information, delivering bottled water and filters, and coordinating bottled water donations — things that the government should be doing instead of me,” said Melissa Mays, a Flint resident and co-founder of the organization Water You Fighting For.

“… I get requests for help nearly every day, mostly from people who have no car, lack access to transportation, and have tried without success to get bottled water or filters delivered from the government. Most of these people are in a panic because they have run out or are close to running out of water and they don’t know what else to do.”

Alder said that the state has issued more than 540,100 cases of water, 110,400 water filters and 42,700 water testing kits through its door-to-door Water Response Teams and Water Resource Sites at the city’s five fire stations. There is no limit to how much water a person can receive at a resource site, Alder said adding that no ID is required and no questions are asked.

Alder also said that those who are homebound can call United Way 211 to be placed on a home delivery list. Residents can also receive assistance with water filter installation.

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