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

Lower Court Order to Install Filters, Provide Bottled Water for Residents Remains in Effect

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.

The Court noted, “[I]t cannot be overstated that it is an immediate requirement, under the Safe Drinking Water Act’s (SDWA) Lead and Copper Rule that the State Defendants[] provide safe drinking water to all residents of Flint. . . .The injunction is in place to ensure that those people have access to clean water.”

Following are reactions from groups and Flint residents who brought the case:

“My holiday wish for Flint is that the State of Michigan stops fighting this court order and gets back to work securing safe drinking water for every person in Flint. Winter is upon us, but many people in Flint still do not have functioning filters for tap water installed in their home or a reliable means to get bottled water. That must change and quickly,” said Pastor Allen Overton of the Concerned Pastors for Social Action.  

The courts have spoken and the State of Michigan’s foot-dragging must end now,” said Dimple Chaudhary, Senior Attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“No effort to resolve the Flint water crisis can be effective until the city and state first make sure that all residents have access to clean safe water. This ruling ensures that government lives up to its responsibilities by guaranteeing that any Flint resident who needs clean water can have it,” said Michael J. Steinberg, Legal Director for the ACLU of Michigan.

“Today’s decision is much-needed good news for the people of Flint. I’m especially pleased the court rejected the State’s complaints about the ‘burden’ of delivering safe drinking water to Flint. It’s time for the city and state officials to do their jobs and join the community as we fight for clean water and justice for Flint,” said Melissa Mays, a plaintiff in the case.

More Information:

  • On November 10, a federal judge ordered Michigan officials and the City of Flint to immediately 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. More at:
  • On November 17, Michigan officials filed motions with the District Court and U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit to stay the order. The City of Flint joined the State’s request on November 29.
  • On December 2, District Judge David Lawson denied the State and City’s motion to stay the order.
  • Concerned Pastors for Social Action, Flint resident Melissa Mays, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the ACLU of Michigan filed their motion seeking delivery of safe drinking water as part of a case brought under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.  More at:
  • 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. More at:
  • 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.


For nearly 100 years, the ACLU has been our nation’s guardian of liberty, working in courts, legislatures, and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and the laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country. The ACLU of Michigan was officially established in 1959 as part of that mission.

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 and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

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