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Flint Water Crisis

In January 2016, NRDC and its local partners sued the City of Flint and Michigan state officials, seeking to secure safe drinking water for Flint residents. Fourteen months later, the government has agreed to replace lead service lines and institute a transparent and effective lead-monitoring system. But the battle isn’t over—NRDC will remain vigilant by watching and reporting water-quality data to make sure that the city and state fulfill their legal commitments.

Background   |   Resources   |   Court Documents   |   Press Releases


Fighting for Safe Drinking Water in Flint

On April 25, 2014, officials looking to save money switched Flint, Michigan’s drinking water supply from the Detroit city system to the Flint River. This new water was highly corrosive. Because city and state officials broke federal law by failing to treat it, lead leached out from aging pipes into thousands of homes.

Soon after the switch, Flint residents complained about dark-colored, foul-tasting, smelly water as well as skin rashes and hair loss. Independent tests found that a significant proportion of samples had lead levels well above the “action level” for lead set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In fact, some samples showed lead levels more than 100 times the action level. Some 9,000 children, who are particularly sensitive to lead and its effects, were exposed to contaminated water.

As more and more citizens voiced their concerns, state officials were “callous and dismissive,” according to a report by the independent Flint Task Force, established by Michigan’s governor Rick Snyder in October 2015. Government officials acknowledged a problem only after residents elevated public awareness and garnered national attention, but unfiltered tap water remained unsafe to drink, and not enough was being done to ensure that all Flint residents had safe drinking water at home.

In January 2016, Concerned Pastors for Social Action, Flint resident Melissa Mays, NRDC, and the ACLU of Michigan filed a lawsuit to compel the City of Flint and Michigan state officials to follow federal Safe Drinking Water Act 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.

In November 2016, the federal court ordered Michigan state officials and the City of Flint to ensure that every Flint home had access to safe drinking water. Until that point, the burden of tracking down safe drinking water daily had been on residents, an exhausting struggle that disrupted their lives. The court ordered that Flint 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.

Despite this ruling against them, and despite our efforts to force the city and state to comply with the court order, they refused, citing “financial, logistical, and practical difficulties...” In December 2016, the court appointed a mediator to help resolve the issues in the case related to providing Flint residents with safe drinking water. And finally, in March 2017, the city of Flint and state of Michigan agreed to replace the lead service lines and institute an effective lead-monitoring system.



FAQ: Flint Drinking Water Settlement

Fact Sheet: Lead Pipe Removal and Safer Water Requirement Details

From NRDC's President: A Major Step Forward in the Flint Water Crisis

Fact Sheet: Know Your Rights Under the Flint Safe Drinking Water Act Settlement Agreement


Court Documents


Press Releases

Flint’s Lead Pipes Will Be Replaced Under Settlement in Federal Safe Drinking Water Case

Citizen suit brings funding and timeline for pipe replacement, more water quality testing, transparency, and other resources to help Flint.

March 28, 2017

Flint Drinking Water Fails to Meet Federal Standards, Yet Michigan Ready to Close the Case on the Water Crisis

CHICAGO – Michigan officials’ recent assertions that Flint’s water system is in compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act are false; the data simply do not show that the system’s lead pipes have fully recovered from the damage caused by the switch to the Flint River nearly three years ago.

January 11, 2017

While Michigan Ignores Judge’s Order for Safe Water, Flint Residents Go Back to Court Seeking Emergency Action

CHICAGO – As Michigan ignores a court order requiring “immediate” action to secure safe drinking water for Flint, residents and organizations filed an emergency motion to force the State of Michigan and City of Flint to comply. The court has ordered the State and City to respond to this motion by noon on Friday, December 23.

December 21, 2016

Sixth Circuit Denies State's Request to Halt Flint Safe Drinking Water Ruling

CHICAGO – Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit denied a request by Michigan state officials and the City of Flint to halt an order requiring them to immediately provide water filter installation and maintenance services or bottled water delivery to Flint. Flint residents have been living without adequate access to safe drinking water for more than two and a half years.

December 16, 2016

Flint—At Long Last—Will Receive Funding for New Water Pipes

WASHINGTON – Flint, Michigan will receive at least $100 million to begin funding the needed work of replacing lead service lines that deliver drinking water throughout the city, with the Senate’s passage today of the Water Resources Development Act. However, the bill also included a rider that rolls back environmental protections in California’s Bay-Delta estuary.

December 10, 2016

State of Michigan Seeks to Block Flint Water Deliveries

CHICAGO – Michigan state officials filed a motion to block a federal court order issued last week that required the immediate provision of bottled drinking water and filter installation and maintenance services to the people of Flint, who have been living without adequate access to safe drinking water for more than two years.

November 17, 2016

Federal Court Orders Bottled Water Delivery for Flint Residents

DETROIT, Mich. – Federal judge David M. Lawson today ordered the 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.

November 10, 2016

Federal Court Gives Green Light to Flint Drinking Water Case

DETROIT – A federal judge today signaled that the first Safe Drinking Water Act case on the Flint water crisis could proceed over protests from the City of Flint and the Michigan state officials.

July 08, 2016

Groups Ask Federal Court to Order Home Water Delivery in Flint, As Tap Water Remains Unsafe

CHICAGO – Flint residents, an organization of pastors, and national advocacy groups are asking a federal court to order home water delivery for every household in the Michigan city served by Flint’s water system. Flint’s tap water remains unsafe and is likely to remain undrinkable for months due to persistent lead contamination.

March 24, 2016

A Fix for Flint: Groups File Federal Lawsuit to Secure Safe Drinking Water in Flint

FLINT, Mich. – A coalition of local citizens and national groups filed suit today seeking federal court intervention to secure access to safe drinking water for the people of Flint, Michigan.

January 27, 2016

Residents of Flint, Michigan, to Sue City, State Over Lead in Drinking Water

CHICAGO – Residents of Flint, Mich., together with the ACLU of Michigan and the Natural Resources Defense Council, today announced their intention to sue state and city officials for ongoing violations of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act amid the city’s widespread lead-contamination crisis.

November 16, 2015

Groups Petition EPA for Emergency Response to Flint, MI, Drinking Water Contamination

CHICAGO – In response to the ongoing drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan, a coalition of local citizens and national groups petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today to take emergency action to secure safe, lead-free water for the City’s children and families.

October 01, 2015