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Federal judge won't force Flint back to Detroit water system

Jun 23, 2015

A federal judge has dismissed a request for an injunction to force the city of Flint to return to Detroit's water system.

“The Court is unable to determine the Coalition’s legal theory, or even whether the Court has the power to grant the requested relief,” wrote Judge Stephen Murphy in his opinion.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

U.S. District Judge Judge Stephen J. Murphy III turned down the request today.

“The Court is unable to determine the Coalition’s legal theory, or even whether the Court has the power to grant the requested relief,” wrote Murphy in his opinion. 

The Coalition for Clean Water, made up of a group of Flint pastors and others, originally filed suit hoping to convince a judge to force the city of Flint to change where it gets its tap water.

“The dismissal of the request for a preliminary injunction was without prejudice, meaning that we certainly have the ability amend the request and refile it,” says Trachelle Young, the attorney representing the coalition
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A leader of the coalition says the group is disappointed with the judge’s decision. But the judge left the door open for the case to move forward.

“The dismissal of the request for a preliminary injunction was without prejudice, meaning that we certainly have the ability amend the request and refile it,” says Trachelle Young, the attorney representing the coalition. She says refiling is one of the options she plans to discuss with her clients. 

Flint city officials insist their water is safe to drink.  

“We are pleased with the Court’s decision on this matter," says Flint City Attorney Peter Bade
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

“We are pleased with the Court’s decision on this matter,” said City Attorney Peter Bade. He has filed a motion for summary judgment seeking dismissal of the case in its entirety.

A year ago, Flint terminated its decades-long contract with the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.   The city is transitioning to a new pipeline being built from Lake Huron. But water won’t start flowing through the KWA pipeline until sometime next year.  So in the interim, the city is getting its tap water from the Flint River.

Almost from the time the switch was flipped, there have been problems.

Flint residents have complained about the look, smell and taste of the treated river water. E. coli outbreaks last summer forced the city to increase disinfectant treatments, which led to more problems.

The city eventually violated the Safe Drinking Water Act for high levels of a disinfectant byproduct. 

Tired of the problems, the coalition filed suit asking for an injunction earlier this month.