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Flint residents can sue former Michigan governor over water disaster, judge rules

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 4/2/2019 Detroit Free Press

Rick Snyder wearing a suit and tie: Governor Rick Snyder delivers his State of the State in House of Representatives Chamber at the State Capitol in Lansing on Tuesday, January 23, 2018. © Provided by Gannett Co., Inc. Governor Rick Snyder delivers his State of the State in House of Representatives Chamber at the State Capitol in Lansing on Tuesday, January 23, 2018. FLINT, Mich. – A judge says former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder can be sued by residents in the Flint water scandal, reversing a decision from last summer.

Residents claim Snyder violated their right to bodily integrity by repeatedly doing nothing as Flint used corrosive water that released lead from old pipes. Judge Judith Levy says a right to bodily integrity is a “fundamental interest” protected by the U.S. Constitution.

Levy says members of Snyder’s administration had warned that switching Flint to the Flint River “could lead to a potential disaster.” The city was under state management in 2014 and 2015. Snyder’s Department of Environmental Quality failed to require corrosion control.

Levy, a federal judge in Ann Arbor, is overseeing lawsuits related to the water crisis. She released a 128-page opinion Monday.

Snyder left office in January. He has apologized for failures that created and prolonged the crisis.

Oct. 7: Tesla CEO Elon Musk to pay for water stations, filtration at Flint schools as promised

Related video: Watch 'Flint: An American Nightmare,' a Free Press documentary (Detroit Free Press)

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The water crisis began in April 2014, when a state-appointed emergency manager switched the source of the city's water supply from Lake Huron water treated in Detroit to water from the Flint River.

After the switch, no process was in place to require corrosion-control chemicals that could have prevented lead from old pipes from seeping into the water supply. Residents immediately began complaining about brown water coming out of their faucets.

The crisis forced many to use filters and bottled water. The city switched back to Lake Huron water 18 months later, in October 2015.

Contributing: Lori Higgins, Detroit Free Press. 

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Flint residents can sue former Michigan governor over water disaster, judge rules

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