FLINT, Mich. — Residents in Flint who were exposed to lead-contaminated water can pursue constitutional claims against Michigan and city officials, a federal appeals court said Friday.
In a 3-0 decision, the court overturned decisions by a judge who said federal water law eclipsed claims of civil rights violations. The court said it wasn’t judging the merits of the two lawsuits, but it’s allowing residents to at least get inside the courthouse door.
The cases now return to U.S. District Judge John Corbett O’Meara in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
They are among many lawsuits in state and federal courts over the disastrous decision to use water from the Flint River without treating it for corrosion in 2014-15. The water caused lead to leach from pipes, contaminating Flint’s water supply. Residents are seeking compensation for “state-created danger.”
The Flint River was tapped while Flint was being run by state-appointed emergency managers because of chronic financial problems. The city has returned to a regional water system, and experts say the water is safe to drink if first run through a filter.
Separately, Michigan has agreed to spend as much as $97 million in state and federal money to replace water lines at 18,000 homes by 2020.