"Everybody in the city has been poisoned, everybody," plaintiff and Flint resident Keith Pemberton said

By Tiare Dunlap
Updated January 19, 2016 04:00 PM
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Credit: Junfu Han/The Ann Arbor/AP

Two new class action lawsuits have been filed against Flint city officials and Michigan state officials for what plaintiffs are calling negligence in the Flint water crisis.

In a press conference Tuesday, it was revealed that Flint residents filed the suits against Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, Former Flint Emergency Managers Darnell Earley and Jerry Ambrose, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Genesee County and other government officials believed to be blamed for the crisis, according to ABC News. A class action lawsuit had already been filed in Federal Court.

“Everybody in the city has been poisoned, everybody,” plaintiff and Flint resident Keith Pemberton told Fox 2 Detroit.

On Saturday, President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency in Michigan and ordered federal aid for state and local response efforts in the city that has been facing lead-contaminated drinking water, Reuters reported.

The city’s water issues began in April 2014 when it temporarily switched Flint’s water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River as a cost-saving measure. Because the water from the Flint River lacked adequate treatment for corrosion, it drew lead out of the city’s old water pipes, the Detroit Free Press reports. When the city switched back to Lake Huron as a water source, the damage to the city’s pipes had already been done.

On Monday, Eden Wells, the state’s chief medical executive, said that all children who drank the city’s water since April 2014 had been exposed to lead.

There is no safe level of lead exposure, but young children and fetuses are most vulnerable to the permanent health effects, particularly affecting the development of the brain and nervous system, according to the World Health Organization. Pregnant women who are exposed to high levels of lead can experience miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and minor malformations.

“After 30 days, the lead leaves your blood stream and goes into the organs of your body,” Pemberton said. “It takes about 10-15 years for it to do its maximum damage. We all got death sentences, simple as that.”

Governor Snyder has apologized for the state’s role in the crisis and called for the provision of water filters for the Flint community as well as longterm care for those who were affected by the lead, according to CNN.

However, pediatricians such as Mona Hanna-Attisha, who is credited with bringing the issue to the public’s attention, fear that the children exposed to the elevated levels of lead will suffer lifelong consequences.

“If you were to put something in a population to keep them down for generation and generations to come, it would be lead,” Hanna-Attisha told CNN. “It’s a well-known, potent neurotoxin. There’s tons of evidence on what lead does to a child, and it is one of the most damning things that you can do to a population.”