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Judge asked to dismiss federal Flint water lawsuit

A table filled with bottles of Flint water (both clear and brown)
Flint Water Study

A federal judge in Detroit heard arguments on a lawsuit stemming from the Flint water crisis Friday.

This lawsuit demands that the state and city to move faster — and do more than they’re currently doing — to make Flint’s water safe.

That includes replacing all the city’s lead service lines.

State lawyers said there are a number of reasons they shouldn’t have to go that far, including the fact that it would be costly.

Flint resident Melissa Mays is one plaintiff in the case.

She says when that cost argument came up, she flashed back to when the state argued Flint couldn’t afford to go back to using Detroit water — something they were eventually forced to do.

“Just like when we begged to get off of the Flint River and go back to Detroit, and their answer was ‘No, it’s too expensive,’” Mays said. “The fact that that got brought up in court … I’m just sitting here going ‘no no, no you don’t.’ We’ve heard this before, that doesn’t work.’

“And the fact that they’re trying to put a price tag on people’s health, and their futures? That’s just absurd.”

Alfred Harris, another plaintiff as part of the Concerned Pastors for Social Action, says there are “too many variables” still in play to do anything but replace Flint’s leaded water infrastructure.

“There were shortcuts that were taken on the front end, and the lawsuit, in my mind, means that we ensure that the short cuts will not be taken on this end,” Harris said.

The state and city want the lawsuit dismissed.

The state also argues that jurisdiction is properly with the federal government in this case, since the Safe Drinking Water Act is a federal law, and the state is already complying with federal directives to fix Flint water.

“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency...is presently investigating and acting on the Flint water situation. This court should defer to the EPA,” Michigan Assistant Attorney General Michael Murphy wrote in the state’s motion to dismiss the case.

U.S. District Judge David Lawson is expected to issue a written ruling soon.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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