Drinking water is something most Americans more or less take for granted most of the time. Most people have access to drinking water that is relatively free from contaminants, until some sort of crisis occurs.
Georgia readers may have heard about the hubbub in Flint Michigan involving lead contamination of the city’s water supply. After the contamination problem was confirmed last year, various government officials have resigned and the governor of that state has apologized for the state’s contribution to the problem.
The city of Flint reportedly changed its water source to the Flint River from the Detroit water system in 2014 as a way to save money. Water from the river, unfortunately, was not treated correctly and, as a result, lead made its way into residents’ homes. The city is now back on the Detroit water system and is awaiting the building of a pipeline to Lake Huron.
The debacle has raised the question of liability, both on the civil and on the criminal side of the law. Both the State of Michigan and Governor Rick Snyder have been sued in class action litigation over the crisis, and the U.S. Attorney’s office, the EPA and the FBI are investigating the possibility of civil and criminal charges. At this point, authorities are looking to determine whether there were any legal violations.
State and local governments are bound by various requirements in terms of maintaining the purity of the water supply. When the safety of the water supply is compromised due to negligence, those responsible for keeping the water supply safe deserve to be held responsible. The same principle applies, of course, to any type of failure that results in contamination of the public or public property. In such cases, working with an experienced environmental law attorney is essential to ensure one’s rights are protected.
cbsnews.com, “FBI joints Flint poisoned water investigation,” Feb. 2, 2016.
Clickondetroit.com, “State of Michigan, Gov. Snyder sued in class action lawsuit over Flint water crisis,” Jan. 14, 2016.