Flint Safe Water Case Back in Court: Groups Say City Isn’t Complying with Lead Pipe Settlement

Tuesday, August 21, 2pm ET, Theodore Levin U.S. Courthouse, Detroit

DETROIT, MI — Seventeen months after a settlement approved by a federal court paved the way to take big steps to address the water crisis in Flint, groups are back in court to ensure the City can successfully execute key provisions to protect the public from further lead exposure.

“The Concerned Pastors for Social Action remain vigilant in our commitment to getting every lead pipe in Flint out of the ground. We’re back in court to ensure that the City finishes the work it’s required to do by a federal court order, and that they do it the right way,” said Pastor Allen Overton, representing Concerned Pastors for Social Action.

Two main issues will be presented to U.S. District Judge David Lawson: First, whether the City can defend the methods it used to conclude that there are fewer than 18,000 lead and galvanized steel service lines in Flint and about how much it will cost to replace them.  Second, whether the City should be required to act faster to ensure that each household is receiving a faucet filter immediately after its service line is replaced to prevent lead spikes in the drinking water.

“The people of Flint are not going to accept shoddy, half-finished work when it comes to replacing lead-tainted water pipes. The City of Flint needs to properly identify which water lines still need to be replaced, and secure the funding to do the job right. Nothing less will be tolerated,” said Melissa Mays of Flint.

The groups have raised questions about whether the City inadequately analyzed the number of pipes to replace by relying on guesswork and a rigged formula. If the City’s analysis is incorrect, it will run out of the $97 million in funding it received to replace every lead service line under the agreement.

In addition, groups are asking the court to require the City to complete required visits to each home more quickly to ensure they have a properly installed faucet filter immediately after its lead water line is replaced. The groups are also asking for additional reporting documenting the visits. To date, the City has failed to conduct the required visits to verify that filters are installed, increasing the risk that lead service line replacement could make things worse, not better, in the short term for some Flint residents.

“The City of Flint is either unwilling or unable to meet its legal obligations under the water settlement, which is unacceptable. We will not give up on the protections negotiated on behalf of Flint’s residents, who have a right to safe drinking water at home,” said Cyndi Roper, NRDC’s Michigan Senior Policy Advocate.

Flint’s lead pipe water settlement of 2017 is the result of a lawsuit Concerned Pastors for Social Action v. Khouri filed by Concerned Pastors for Social Action, Flint resident Melissa Mays, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the ACLU of Michigan. The agreement secured clear, specific steps the City must take to address the water crisis in Flint. It requires the state of Michigan to pay for and the city to complete thousands of lead service line replacements in Flint within three years at no cost to Flint residents. The settlement agreement also requires the state to provide filters and filter-installation services to residents; offers tap water monitoring above and beyond the requirements of federal regulations; and requires the city, state, and MDEQ to comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Emergency Administrative Order.

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The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

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