FLINT, Mich., April 26 (UPI) -- Hundreds of current and former residents of Flint, Mich., have joined to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 18 months after a former resident first contacted the agency about water problems there.
More than 500 families are seeking more than $220 million as compensation for personal injuries and property damage.
"The EPA heard the alarm bell loud and clear but chose to ignore the profound environmental and public health issues brought to its attention in the early stages of this disaster," Pitt said Monday in a statement. "This agency attitude of 'public be damned' amounts to a cruel and unspeakable act of environmental injustice for which damages will have to be paid to the thousands of injured water users."
Former Flint resident Jan Burgess, the lead plaintiff, first contacted the EPA on its website in October 2014. She said the water's taste and smell did not seem right after Flint started drawing water from the Flint River in April 2014, the suit claims.
She received a response one week later that state officials were investigating the situation. But she didn't meet with anyone from the EPA until 18 months later. An emergency wasn't declared in the city until January.
The suit blames the EPA in general but singles out EPA official Jennifer Crooks, who oversees Michigan's water issues.
"By April 2015, the EPA was positive that corrosion control was not being used, yet failed to suggest, direct or counsel the (Michigan Department of Environmental Quality) and Flint to implement a corrosion control program until July 2015," the complaint reads.
EPA officials were reviewing the complaint, agency spokesman Dan Abrams said.
In March, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy testified before a congressional committee that Michigan environmental officials misled her for months.
More than a dozen lawsuits have been filed in state, county and federal courts in Michigan. Claims ranged from compensation for lead poisoning to refunds for water bills
Three Michigan officials were officially charged with crimes last week for the lead contamination.
Criminal accusations "are only the beginning," Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said at a news conference, promising more charges will be filed.