Flint Drinking Water Lawsuit Accuses State of Lead Contamination Cover-Up

A Flint family has filed a lawsuit against the state of Michigan, it’s governor, the City of Flint and a number of local and state officials, alleging that a young girl was exposed to dangerous levels of lead after drinking the city’s tainted water. 

The complaint (PDF) was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan on February 8, by Luke Waid and Michelle Rodriguez, individually and on behalf of their daughter, Sophia Rodriguez-Waid.

According to Flint lawsuit, the family consumed lead contaminated water provided by the city, which could have life-long detrimental effects on their daughter.

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The case is one of a number of lead poisoning lawsuits that may be pursued against the state of Michigan, Governor Rick Snyder, the City of Flint, and a number of emergency managers appointed by Governor Snyder to overhaul the city’s finances.

The issues stem from Flint water crisis that began in April 2014, when government officials decided to switch the town from the Detroit Water System to water from the Flint River in an attempt to save money. Residents immediately began complaining about cloudy and foul-smelling water, and many reported developing skin lesions and rashes after exposure to the water.

Subsequent investigations have confirmed that residents have been exposed to high levels of lead in their drinking water, and a number of children now have dangerously high blood levels, with the rate of childhood lead poisoning in Flint doubling since the water source was switched.

The Waid lawsuit accuses the state of covering up the problem instead of immediately addressing it, prolonging the exposure of the city’s children to potentially harmful lead in their drinking water.

“In 2014, Defendants discovered that dangerous levels of lead were leaching into Flint’s drinking water,” the lawsuit states. “Not only did Defendants fail to take any measures to eliminate this danger, as required by federal law, but they actually took affirmative steps to downplay the severity of the contamination from its citizens. In so doing, Defendants negligently and recklessly exposed the entire population of Flint, including Plaintiffs, to devastating and irreversible health problems.”

The lawsuit claims that the child’ exposure came at a crucial time in her development, and she’s already showing classic signs of lead poisoning, including weight loss, learning disabilities, psychological problems, headaches, anemia and other health impacts.

“Defendants failure to remediate the lead crisis they caused by switching to the Flint River violated the constitutional rights of Plaintiffs by acting in a manner that shocks the conscience of the Plaintiffs,” the lawsuit states.

Due to sovereign immunity laws which shield many state officials from civil lawsuits, the Flint water crisis claims being filed face an uphill battle and must present an argument that the state violated the constitutional rights of its citizens by exposing them to lead-tainted water, failing to inform them that they had done so, and failing to immediately fix the problem, resulting in life-long injury for many children.

In addition to lead poisoning lawsuits, Flint residents have sued the state to replace the water lines, and for injuries linked to a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak some say was caused by the tainted water system.

A federal probe is also underway, which some experts say could look at Governor Snyder’s actions, the actions of the state Department of Environmental Quality, whose director resigned as a result of the crisis, and what is perceived by some to be a slow response by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The CDC estimates that 535,000 children ages 1-5, or about 2.6% of such children in the U.S., have levels of lead in their blood that place them at risk for adverse health effects. To come up with that number, the CDC analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from the years 1999 to 2002, and 2007 through 2010. The majority of those children are poor and live in older urban areas, mainly in the inner city. Most are minorities, meaning such exposures add to numerous problems already plaguing inner city black and Latino youths, such as poverty, high crime and poor schools.


  • DebraApril 24, 2017 at 5:21 pm

    I had breast cancer I was a resident o flint i moved close to UofM hospital to be treated

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