McAlpine PC Files Class Action Suit Against Flint’s Water Treatment Engineers
January 25, 2016
On January 25, 2016, McAlpine PC filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of the citizens of Flint against Texas-based Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam, Inc. (“LAN”) in connection with its role in causing the widely-publicized lead contamination of Flint’s drinking water. LAN was retained by the City of Flint to take overall charge of placing the Flint Water Treatment Plant (FWTP) into operation in April of 2014 using the Flint River — the source for Flint’s drinking water. It is alleged that LAN was negligent by failing to ensure that the FWTP incorporated anti-corrosive treatments in order to prevent lead and other dangerous contaminants from leaching into the drinking water. Flint had previously purchased its drinking water from Detroit which has treated its water with anti-corrosive chemicals for many years. Experts have universally criticized the decision not to employ such a well-known and basic precaution to guard against lead and other contamination, especially given the older service leads throughout the Flint community connecting the homes to the water supply.
The results of LAN’s negligence have been devastating. Predictably, the corrosive Flint River water has attacked the metals in service leads allowing lead and other contaminants to reach levels which far exceed maximum levels established by the Federal government. Unfortunately, lead continued to leach into the drinking water for well over a year before it was discovered and caused Flint to switch back to Detroit water in the fall of 2015. But the damage has been done. Testing has revealed widespread lead poisoning of children through the Flint area. Some have also associated a spike in deaths caused by exposure to legionella bacteria in the drinking water which may have been caused by a failure of the FWTP to operate properly. And it is likely that the damage to the service leads connecting property owners to the water system can only be corrected by a wide scale replacement of the leads.
Not only has the human health tragedy been catastrophic (especially for young children) but the property damage is staggering. Not only must the Flint water distribution system be repaired at tremendous cost, but property values have plummeted. Experts have estimated that property values have dropped by 25% or more due to the market stigma caused by the widespread media reports of the crisis. While the well-meaning efforts of celebrities, relief agencies, governmental entities and even presidential candidates have mobilized a wide scale effort to address the crisis, those same efforts have created a market stigma which is estimated to last up to 20 years, long after the underlying cause of the contamination has been rectified. The loss in property values alone could exceed $200 million, not to mention the present and future personal injuries and repair costs.
This was a completely avoidable catastrophe, according to lead trial counsel Mark McAlpine. “LAN betrayed the public trust by failing to safeguard the citizens of Flint from a very well-known health risk that was easily avoided. Municipalities across the country are entirely dependent on the professional engineers who design treatment plants and advise drinking water authorities on the proper measures to ensure that the drinking water is safe. It is vitally important that we reinforce the professional obligations of firms like LAN which is why we are also seeking exemplary damages.”
While there are a number of other class actions which have arisen out of the Flint water crisis, the McAlpine Suit is the only one against LAN which seeks to remedy the damages from private funds, rather than by redirecting state-wide taxpayer funds to solve the Flint crisis.
McAlpine PC is a national construction litigation law firm with extensive experience in water and waste water treatment plants and supply systems. The firm will draw heavily on its expertise in the water treatment industry and the many large and complex litigations it has handled in Michigan and around the country in the pursuit of restitution for the residents of Flint.