On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that two separate class-action lawsuits relating to the Flint water crisis may proceed. The suits were filed by residents of the city, who are seeking civil rights claims against state and city officials because of how the city’s water supply became contaminated with lead.
The court’s decision confirmed a ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Ohio back in July of 2017, which overturned a lower court ruling that threw out the cases. In its decision, the Supreme Court denied appeals that were filed by officials representing the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the city of Flint and the Genesee County’s drainage commissioner.
In the earlier decision, the circuit court ruled that the lawsuits could proceed because they did not run counter to a statue in the Safe Drinking Water Act that precludes individuals from seeking monetary damages against government bodies because of unsafe drinking water.
The city of Flint, which is mostly black, changed its source of public water from Lake Huron to the Flint River back in April of 2014. They did this to save money, but because the water from the river was so polluted it caused lead contamination when it interacted with the city’s pipes. Lead contamination can stunt cognitive development in children, and no amount of lead — no matter how small — is considered safe.
In October of 2015, the city switched its water supply back to Lake Huron, but the level of lead in the city’s water supply exceeded federal standards until the early part of 2017.
Many lawsuits against government officials have been filed because of the water crises, including against the state’s governor Rick Snyder.
Neither government officials nor the plaintiffs in the cases issued statements in regards to the Supreme Court’s decision.