Flint Water Delivery A ‘Burden’: State Says

The Michigan state government is in court to battle the Flint water delivery order which instructed both the state and city to provide bottled water for residents without a verified home water filter.

The Michigan administration, under Rick Snyder, is filing a motion seeking relief against a federal court order requiring the government to deliver bottled water to all Flint residents who do not have access to filtered water, according to The Grio.

In court documents, Snyder argues that it would require a “Herculean effort” and the equivalent of a military-style operation in order to meet those requirements, with costs estimated at $10.45 million a month, or $125 million annually. Snyder’s government argues in the documents that such an effort “increases the scope of the State’s emergency response to an unnecessary and insurmountable degree, particularly in light of the injunction’s time constraints.”

The required injunction far exceeds what is necessary to ensure Flint residents have access to safe drinking water,” argued attorneys for Michigan Treasurer Nick Khouri and the Flint Receivership Transition Advisory Board on Thursday.

For the past two years, the residents of Flint have been forced to rely on bottled water and home water filters for drinking, bathing and cooking due to dangerously high lead levels in the city’s water, the Atlanta Black Star reports. Nine water distribution sites have been set up around the city, but several residents have complained that they’re hard to get to. That’s when local organizations sued the state to force the government to deliver bottled water, Michigan Radio reported.

The fact that such items are available does not mean that they are reliably accessible or effective in furnishing safe drinking water to every household,” Lawson wrote in his opinion last week. “Indeed, the endeavor of hunting for water has become a dominant activity in some Flint residents’ daily lives.”

In a 37-page opinion, Lawson ordered home delivery of four cases of water per resident each week unless state and city officials can verify each resident has a properly installed and maintained faucet water filter, the Detriot News states. The Flint water delivery order “increases the scope of the State’s emergency response to an unnecessary and insurmountable degree, particularly in light of the injunction’s time constraints,” attorneys wrote.

The state currently distributes 77,996 cases of bottled water every three weeks through nine official distribution centers, community partners and limited home deliveries, according to a declaration filed Thursday by Michigan State Police Capt. Chris Kelenske, who is heading up the emergency response effort in Flint. Residents also obtain free filters, replacement cartridges and at-home water test kits at those sites.

Thursday’s state filing notes Lawson described those distribution efforts as “significant” and “commendable” even as he issued his order requiring home delivery.

Compliance with the court order would cost the state a minimum of $10.45 million a month, he calculated, requiring 394,540 cases of bottled water each week, 137 delivery trucks and drivers, additional warehouse staff and supplementary distribution services from private companies.

“Use of state personnel to perform these operations will be more costly, more prone to failure due to it not being an operation typically conducted on a routine basis, and will redirect public service resources from providing critical services to the rest of the state of Michigan,” Kelenske said.

Groups hit state’s appeal

Lawson’s preliminary injunction was sought by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and Flint residents who sued state and city officials to try to speed up the slow process of removing lead service lines blamed for contaminating the city’s water.

It’s sad that the State of Michigan continues to disenfranchise the community of Flint,” Pastor Allen Overton, a plaintiff and member of Concerned Pastors for Social Action, said in a statement. “What happened to Gov. Snyder’s pledge that he would work to fix Flint’s drinking water crisis? This action today inflicts more harm on a city that’s already hurting.”

Snyder spokeswoman Anna Heaton confirmed the state plans to appeal to the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, suggesting Lawson’s order “moves the efforts in Flint backward” by requiring emergency deliveries at a time when experts have said that filtered water is safe.

The Herculean effort required by the court order would be on the magnitude of a large-scale military operation,” she said, suggesting the resulting costs would hurt the state’s ability to fund lead service line replacement and other recovery programs.

Mass home delivery would require activation of the National Guard and “the hiring of several logistics companies with the necessary equipment and personnel to achieve this unprecedented level of effort,” Heaton continued.

Lawson has not made any decisions on the state motion to lift his original order, but he ordered the plaintiffs to file a response by Wednesday. The city of Flint, also a named plaintiff in the case, has until Wednesday if it wants to respond, Lawson said.

Residents: Pickups a burden

Flint residents who sued for home delivery of bottled water testified at a court hearing in September that picking up the water on a nearly daily basis is a burden on their lives. Residents have been instructed by federal and state officials to drink only filtered or bottled water.

Lawson ruled the Flint water resource sites were insufficient for the daily needs of residents while the water remains unsafe to drink without lead filters.

The fact that such items are available does not mean that they are reliably accessible or effective in furnishing safe drinking water to every household,” Lawson wrote. “Indeed, the endeavor of hunting for water has become a dominant activity in some Flint residents’ daily lives.”

Lawson’s order also requires the state and city to provide information to residents “about the current state of the water distributed through the system, proper use and maintenance of filters, and points of distribution of bottled water.”

It is a shame that government officials will actually debate a critical issue as this. The Flint water crises had a major problem for residents for some time now. And now that court has ordered for state to supply residents with clean bottled water, they are adamant to do so. What shows that they were interested in solving the problem right from the onset? They don’t care because the majority of Flint’s inhabitants are Black people.

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