A major class action lawsuit filed by Flint, Mich., residents over how the state handles changes in the city’s water that led to the lead-contamination crisis was dismissed by a federal judge Thursday.
The Detroit News reports that U.S. District Judge John Corbett O’Meara dismissed the case brought by Flint activist and resident Melissa Mays and several other Flint families because “allowing claims to proceed would circumvent the SWDA [Safe Water Drinking Act].”
The lawsuit was originally filed in 2015 against Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, the city of Flint, and other state and city officials who were involved in the switching of the city’s water system from Detroit to the corrosive Flint River, which resulted in high levels of lead being introduced into the city’s water supply.
From the Detroit News:
The class-action lawsuit was pursued on “behalf of tens of thousands of residents from Flint who from April 25, 2014 to the present, have experienced and will continue to experience serious personal injury and property damage caused by Defendants’ deliberate decision to expose them to the extreme toxicity of water pumped from the Flint River into their homes, schools, hospitals, workplaces and public places,” the complaint alleged.
It accused state and local government officials of violating the constitutional rights of Flint residents “by acting in a manner that shocks the conscience and was deliberately indifferent” to the constitutional rights and the health and well-being of residents.
The plaintiffs had asked for compensatory damages, punitive damages, as well as medical, educational, occupational, and nutritional support for Flint water users.
O’Meara wrote in his opinion that allowing the lawsuit to continue would be “inconsistent with Congress’ carefully tailored scheme” to “entrust the regulation of the public drinking water systems to an expert regulatory agency rather than the courts.”
O’Meara is referring to the Safe Water Drinking Act, which, according to the Environmental Protection Agency website, is “the federal law that protects public drinking water supplies throughout the nation. Under the SDWA, EPA sets standards for drinking water quality and with its partners implements various technical and financial programs to ensure drinking water safety.”