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

As winter descends and temperatures drop, obtaining water is harder than it was before

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.

Forty days after Judge David Lawson issued a preliminary injunction intended to alleviate the lead drinking water crisis, the State and City have not complied. Nor do they appear to have any intention to do so, according to the motion filed yesterday. Yet it remains undisputed that unfiltered tap water remains unsafe, despite tests showing Flint tap water may be improving.

“The State and City’s dislike for a federal court order does not give them license to ignore it,” said Henry Henderson, Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Midwest Program. “It is winter in Flint, and tracking down drinking water in the bone-chilling cold makes life harder for all. We’re asking the court to take emergency action to ensure safe water is available for every person in Flint, immediately,” said Henderson.

“Enough is enough. The State has thumbed its nose at the people of Flint by taking away their local democracy and poisoning their water more than two years ago. Now the State is essentially thumbing its nose at a federal judge by ignoring a court order issued six weeks ago to either deliver bottled water to residents or verify that they have working water filters. The people of Flint are desperate for clean water and cannot afford any more delays,” said Michael J. Steinberg, Legal Director, ACLU of Michigan.

The preliminary injunction issued on November 10 ordered the State and City to “immediately” ensure that every Flint resident has either a properly installed and maintained filter or bottled water delivery. According to status reports the State and City submitted to Judge Lawson on December 16, they have not complied with the injunction. For example, they have failed to verify filter installation in many − let alone most –­ homes, have not expanded their limited water delivery program, and had not mailed a public notice required by the Court nearly six weeks ago.

Plaintiffs in the case Concerned Pastors for Social Action v. Khouri requested that the Court order the State and City to take additional steps to address the ongoing irreparable harms to Flint residents, including expanding hours of filter installation and maintenance services; immediately beginning delivery of bottled water to each household without a verified, working filter; and providing a status report to the Court by January 5 describing how they intend to fully comply with the preliminary injunction. [See Plaintiffs’ motion here: https://www.nrdc.org/resources/plaintiffs-emergency-motion-enforce-preliminary-injunction]

Concerned Pastors for Social Action, Flint resident Melissa Mays, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the ACLU of Michigan filed for a preliminary injunction as part of a case brought under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.  More at: https://www.nrdc.org/media/2016/160324


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 at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

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