NAACP sues Michigan officials over Flint’s water crisis

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

The NAACP announced Wednesday it has filed a federal class action lawsuit against the state and others on behalf of residents and businesses affected by the water crisis in Flint.

The 103-page complaint filed March 31 in the U.S. District Court in Detroit alleges the state of Michigan, city and state officials and two engineering firms failed to “detect problems and properly treat water that caused extensive lead contamination” in the city.

Among those named in the lawsuit are the State of Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder, Flint utilities administrator Michael Glasgow and Michigan Department of Environmental municipal water regulators Michael Prysby and Stephen Busch. Also named are two engineering firms: Houston-based Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam Inc. and Chicago-based Veolia North America, which the suit says were hired to review the city’s water distribution system.

“The people of Flint have been harmed through the failure of state officials to provide professional and accountable basic services mandated by federal law and expected by any person living in a major city,” said Cornell William Brooks, the national president and CEO of the NAACP, in a statement Wednesday.

“Our organization stands with the citizens of Flint to demand a clear timeline, deadline and price tag for fixing this crisis as well as effective remedies for the harms that have already occurred and complete compensation for each and every victim of this unimaginable tragedy.”

Prysby, Busch and Glasgow all face criminal charges filed by the Michigan Attorney General’s Office for their alleged involvement in the crisis. Glasgow has reached a plea agreement in the case, which is under review by a judge.

The complaint is among the growing number of lawsuits filed in connection with the water crisis that emerged after officials did not apply corrosion control chemicals when the city began drawing its drinking water from the Flint River in April 2014.

Snyder spokesman Ari Adler said Wednesday evening the governor’s office does not comment on pending lawsuits.

Paul Whitmore, communications manager for Veolia North America, said Wednesday evening his company was hired for a one-time, one-month contract in February 2015 to analyze the residual effects of the city’s chlorination process. Lead issues were not raised until summer 2015 and recognized by Snyder’s office until October 2015.

“Lead and copper testing were never included in the scope of work for Veolia,” Whitmore wrote in an emailed response. “The City of Flint was conducting tests for lead and copper through another company. The results of the lead and copper tests were not complete during the time of our study.”

Representatives for Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam Inc. did not return calls seeking comment.

The complaint seeks damages including property, pain and suffering and emotional distress. The plaintiffs also seek medical monitoring, and other injunctive relief determined by the court.

An order filed in federal court May 4 granted Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam Inc. an extension until June 3 to respond to the lawsuit.

The NAACP said Wednesday there are plans to schedule a town hall meeting with residents in the near future to discuss further action in the case.


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