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Major Legal Win for Water Crisis Victims As Federal Court Orders Bottled Water Delivery to Flint Residents

November 11, 2016

DETROIT–Federal judge David M. Lawson has ordered Michigan state officials and the City of Flint to deliver bottled water door-to-door to homes in Flint, a victory for residents who have been living without access to safe drinking water for more than two years. Until this point, the burden of tracking down safe drinking water every day has been resting on residents, an exhausting struggle that has disrupted their lives and sense of normalcy.

The court yesterday ordered the state and city officials to ensure that every Flint household has safe drinking water. That means homes must receive bottled water delivery unless the government verifies, on a regular basis, that the home has a properly installed and maintained faucet filter, or the home declines delivery. The judge said, “In modern society, when we turn on a faucet, we expect safe drinking water to flow out….The relief is intended to provide a rough substitute for the essential service that municipal water systems must furnish: delivery of safe drinking water at the point of use.”

“Judge Lawson’s wise ruling ensures that all Flint residents finally will have access to a reliable supply of safe drinking water until the lead pipes are replaced, said Michael J. Steinberg, legal director of the American Civil Liberties of Michigan, whiich filed the lawsuit along with the Natural Resources Defense Council and Flint activists. “It is an important, but rare, victory for the people of Flint, who have suffered one set back after the next since poison started flowing out their faucets more than two years ago.”

Pastors for Social Action, Flint resident Melissa Mays, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the ACLU of Michigan filed their motion seeking home delivery of safe drinking water as part of a case brought under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.  Through the case, the plaintiffs are seeking to compel the City and state officials to follow federal requirements for testing and treating water to control for lead and to order the prompt replacement of all lead water pipes at no cost to Flint residents. The suit also seeks appropriate relief to remedy the health and medical harms to Flint residents from the lead contamination. The lawsuit is not seeking monetary damages.

“The Court today affirmed that all people have the right the safe drinking water, including the people of Flint, Michigan,” said Dimple Chaudhary, Senior Attorney with NRDC. “The court correctly recognized that the government created this crisis, and it’s the government’s responsibility to ensure that all people in Flint have access to safe drinking water."

“This is a very significant victory for the people of Flint, who now have the assurance from a federal court that they will have access to safe drinking water every day,” added Pastor Robert Blake, a member of the Concerned Pastors for Social Action. “But there’s still much more to do to fix Flint. As I testified in court, poverty is high in Flint, but just because you have impoverished people, we ought not treat them like third-world people.”

Judge Lawson’s wise ruling ensures that all Flint residents finally will have access to a reliable supply of safe drinking water until the lead pipes are replaced. It is an important, but rare, victory for the people of Flint, who have suffered one set back after the next since poison started flowing out their faucets more than two years ago.

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