The NAACP has filed the latest of seemingly never-ending lawsuits against the state of Michigan, claiming the governor and state officials failed to detect and properly treat drinking water for the city of Flint.
The civil rights organization announced Wednesday that it would seek property, pain and suffering, and emotional distress damages on behalf of residents and businesses impacted by the city’s lead-contaminated water supply.
“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,” NAACP President and CEO Cornell William Brooks said. “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.”
The 103-page document alleges officials continued to deny widespread reports of tainted water and corroded pipes, assuring citizens the water was safe — though they themselves were no longer consuming it.
“All the while — despite public assurances of safety — government officials in Flint quietly switched to bottled water while the citizens and businesses of Flint continued to drink dangerously contaminated water,” the lawsuit says.
Problems began in April 2014, when the city switched its water source from Lake Huron to nearby Flint River in an effort to save money.
Governor Rick Snyder; six former high-ranking employees of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality; three men who were emergency managers during the exposure period; and two engineering firms hired to analyze water in the city — Lockwood, Andrews and Newnam Inc. and Veolia North America — are all named as defendants in the federal class-action suit.
The NAACP said attorneys plan to host a series of town hall meetings with Flint residents to discuss further action.
News of the civil suit came as leaders of a local church reported that someone is setting fire to their bottled water supply.
Flint’s Greater Holy Temple Church of God in Christ has become a safe haven for city residents, serving as a distribution center for cases of donated water daily. The church has faced two arson attempts this month.
The first incident coincided with White House Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Muñoz’s visit May 3. The Detroit native held a “listening session” with members and community activists at the church a day ahead of President Obama’s much publicized tour of the city.
First lady Sandra Jones told Fox 66, three full pallets of 50-gallon water bottles were set ablaze in the church parking lot as members met inside with the advisor.
“When we walked back there I just started crying,” Jones said at the time.
Michigan Live reports a second attempt occurred Wednesday, May 18. Jones said the smell of burning cardboard caught her attention as she was preparing batches of water for distribution behind the church. Then she saw the flames.
“I just started pouring water on it and calling for help,” she said. “By the time they got back, there was another one that was on fire and then there was another one around the corner that was on fire. I’m like this is just crazy.”
Church officials were in disbelief, stumped as to a motive for ruining the only source of clean water for hundreds of victims of the Flint crisis.
“I can’t imagine why someone would want to do something like this. It’s sad,” Yvette Martin, the church’s administrator said. “We’re in a crisis and we’re trying to help.”
Fox66 spoke with Jones, who said neither the fire department nor police arrived on scene to investigate this time. Police told her they would not investigate the arson case when she contacted the department for help.
Flint fire chief Steven Cobb told the station his department was not involved because it had no knowledge of the two incidents. Cobb also said the Flint police department had no arson investigation unit and should have handed over the matter to Michigan State Police, if they were investigating.