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Class-action suits seek special state fund to pay for Flint water crisis

Jan 19, 2016

Gov. Rick Snyder may have to go under oath about the Flint water crisis, if some class-action attorneys have their way.

“When I went to kindergarten, my kindergarten teacher said ‘if you make the mess, you clean it up,'" says attorney Michael Pitt.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A trio of class-action lawsuits have been filed in the Flint water crisis. Among other things, the suits are demanding the state create a special fund to cover damages related to the crisis.     

Attorney Michael Pitt says the crisis is the state’s responsibility.

“When I went to kindergarten, my kindergarten teacher said ‘if you make the mess, you clean it up,’” says Pitt.

While the city was under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager in 2014, Flint switched its drinking water source from Detroit to the Flint River. The corrosive river water damaged aging pipes, which leached lead into the drinking water.    

Despite switching back last fall, lead is still a problem in Flint’s tap water.

Pitt says Flint residents deserve not only compensation for damage and personal injury, they shouldn’t have to pay for water they can’t safely drink without a special filter.

Melissa Mays has been an advocate for fixing Flint’s water system since problems first emerged in 2014.

She’s among thousands of Flint residents who’ve been sent shutoff notices for overdue water and sewer bills.

Mays says “$880 is what I owe. We know we’re not using that much, but they know … we have to pay what they send us.”

Gov. Snyder has repeatedly apologized for the state’s handling of the Flint water crisis.  

Attorneys want to hear him say more. In particular, they have questions for him about when exactly he knew Flint’s drinking water was a problem.  

Snyder insists he was not aware of the extent of the problem before Oct. 1, 2015.

But attorney Michael Pitt says documents obtained so far indicate administration officials were talking about it months earlier.

Pitt says the governor will face a deposition sooner or later.

The governor’s office declined to comment on the lawsuits, insisting the focus now is on the health and safety of people in Flint.