Pipe replacement, court hearings continue 8 years after the Flint water crisis began

Monday marks the eighth anniversary of the Flint water crisis, and the effects are still ongoing.
Published: Apr. 25, 2022 at 1:28 PM EDT
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FLINT, Mich. (WNEM) - Monday marks the eighth anniversary of the Flint water crisis, and the effects are still ongoing.

The city of Flint switched its water source on April 25, 2014 from the Detroit water system to the Flint River. A lack of proper corrosion control methods caused lead to leach into the water supply.

The city of Flint is still working to improve its drinking water years after the start of the water crisis. The city recently extended the deadline to finish identifying and replacing the remaining lead water pipes by September. The deadline extension agreement must be approved by the federal court.

Former Gov. Rick Snyder, the former state health department director, Nick Lyon, the former chief executive of the state health department, Eden Wells, the former communications director for Snyder, Jarrod Agon, a former Flint emergency manager, Gerald Ambrose, a former senior advisor for Snyder, Richard Baird, the former director of Flint’s Department of Public Works, Howard Croft, another former Flint emergency manager, Darnell Earley, and a former state health department official, Nancy Peeler, were charged for their alleged roles in the lead contamination and legionnaires’ crises.

A lawsuit on behalf of four children has also been filed against two engineering companies for their alleged negligence during the Flint water crisis. The children claim their injuries were caused by their exposure to lead in Flint’s drinking water in 2014 and 2015. Jury trial for this case is expected to last for months and involved testimony from various witnesses.

“The residents of Flint have endured unimaginable pain, loss and illness as a result of the reckless negligence of the EPA and the two engineering firms that advised the City of Flint, Veolia and Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam,” said Ted Leopold, court-appointed co-lead counsel and partner at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll. “Though we have made important progress toward holding accountable the bad actors that enabled this public health disaster, our fight to win full justice for the thousands of children and families whose lives have been irreparably damaged continues.”

In November, a federal judge approved a $626.25 million partial settlement of compensation for people impacted by the water crisis. The state defendants were obligated to pay $600 million, the Flint defendants were obligated to pay $20 million, the McLaren defendants were obligated to pay $5 million and Rowe was obligated to pay $1.25 million.

Claudia Perkins-Milton is one of many Flint residents who have endured eight years of the city’s water crisis.

“I think it’s ridiculous. I think us living in a civilized nation, and not being a third world country, we have been treated like one,” Perkins-Milton said.

Perkins-Milton said while some things have changed with the Vehicle City’s ongoing water issues, others have not.

“I drove past Bethel Church just now, and the water lines are long right this second. People are still in lines trying to get bottled water,” Perkins-Milton said.

“I know that the people of Flint are strong, and the people of Flint will come through this. But that they need help from the people that did this to them,” Congressman Dan Kildee said.

Attorney Michael Pitt, who represents more than 5,000 Flint residents in class action lawsuits against the EPA and two engineering firms, said a lot was done to the people of Flint. According to Pitt, 95 percent of the children his firm has tested are showing significant impairments tied to the lead-tainted water.

“When you realize that what happened to the kids of Flint and to the adults as well, was totally preventable, it makes my blood boil. And I want to keep fighting for the people of Flint,” Pitt said.

Perkins-Milton believes the water crisis is a long way from running dry.

“People are still suffering. And I want the world to know how we feel. It’s an injustice at the highest level,” Perkins-Milton said.

Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananinch issued the following statement on the anniversary:

“April 25, 2014 was the last day our community had safe water to drink before the whole city was quietly poisoned. In the coming days and months, our water would turn brown and begin to smell. We would lose lives to Legionnaires’ and children would incur a lifetime of challenges due to lead exposure.

If it were not for residents who insisted on being heard and a brave doctor who risked her reputation on sharing her research, who knows how much longer the crisis would have continued.

Since then, pipes have been replaced, rules and regulations updated, health care resources increased, educational and nutritional interventions for kids put into action, and in many ways, our city is stronger than ever. A historic settlement was reached between the state and victims of the crisis, indicating an important acknowledgment from the state of its role in causing this disaster. But on this day, we grieve everything we had to endure, and are still enduring, at the hands of careless politicians who put their budget’s bottom line ahead of the health of people.

There will be no justice for the twelve we lost nor the children who ingested lead during their most vulnerable, formative years. But accountability under the law is still within reach and I will continue to say that, whoever had a hand in this crisis – no matter how powerful – must still answer for their actions or inaction.

It will be my life’s work to prevent any other community from having their own April 25.”