United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER
John Corbett O'Meara, Judge
the court are six motions to dismiss Plaintiffs' amended
complaint filed by Defendants, which have been fully briefed.
For the reasons explained below, Defendants' motions to
dismiss are granted.
case arises out of the contamination of drinking water in
Flint, Michigan. Plaintiffs intend to represent a class of
Flint residents and others who used Flint water from April
25, 2014, to the present. Defendants are Michigan Governor
Rick Snyder, the State of Michigan, Daniel Wyant, Nick Lyon,
Andy Dillon, Liane Shekter Smith, Adam Rosenthal, Stephen
Busch, Patrick Cook, Michael Prysby, Bradley Wurfel, Jeff
Wright, Edward Kurtz, Darnell Earley, Gerald Ambrose, Dayne
Walling, Howard Croft, Michael Glasgow, Daugherty Johnson,
and the City of Flint.
amended complaint alleges the following causes of action:
Count I, substantive due process/state created danger, 42
U.S.C. § 1983; Count II, substantive due process/bodily
integrity, § 1983; Count III, equal protection based
upon race, § 1983; Count IV, equal protection based upon
wealth, § 1983; Count V, conspiracy, § 1985; and
Count VI, violation of the public service provisions of the
Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. Plaintiffs allege that
“Defendants caused a public health crisis by exposing
Plaintiffs to contaminated water.” Amended Compl. at
¶ 1. Defendants have moved to dismiss Plaintiffs'
complaint on various grounds, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(1) and (6).
Preclusion of § 1983 Claims
Boler v. Earley, No. 16-10323, Docket No. 56 (E.D.
Mich., O'Meara, J.), another case involving Flint water
contamination, the court concluded that the plaintiffs'
constitutional claims brought pursuant to § 1983 were
precluded by the Safe Drinking Water Act
(“SDWA”). Defendants urge the same result here,
contending that if Plaintiffs' § 1983 claims are not
viable, Plaintiffs lack a federal cause of action and this
court should dismiss Plaintiffs' complaint.
determining whether a statute precludes suit under §
1983, “[t]he crucial consideration is what Congress
intended.” Smith v. Robinson, 468 U.S. 992,
1012 (1984). “When the remedial devices provided in a
particular Act are sufficiently comprehensive, they may
suffice to demonstrate congressional intent to preclude the
remedy of suits under § 1983.” Middlesex Cty.
Sewerage Authority v. National Sea Clammers Assn., 453
U.S. 1, 20 (1981). In Sea Clammers, the Court found
that the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA) and the
Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act of 1972
(MPRSA), contained comprehensive enforcement mechanisms. The
Court held that these enforcement schemes demonstrated
Congress's intent “to supplant any remedy that
otherwise would be available under § 1983.”
Id. at 21.
on Sea Clammers, the First Circuit in Matoon v.
Pittsfield, 980 F.2d 1 (1st Cir. 1992), found
that the Safe Drinking Water Act precluded other federal
remedies for unsafe public drinking water. In
Matoon, the plaintiffs were residents who allegedly
contracted giardiasis from drinking contaminated water
supplied by the City of Pittsfield, Massachusetts. They
alleged a breach of warranty claim, a “public
nuisance” claim under federal common law, a claim under
42 U.S.C. § 1983, and a SDWA claim.
Matoon court found the federal common law nuisance
claim to be preempted by the SDWA, because “Congress
occupied the field of public drinking water regulation with
its enactment of the SDWA.” Matoon, 980 F.2d
at 4. Quoting the legislative history, the court noted that
the purpose of the SDWA “is to assure that water supply
systems serving the public meet minimum national
standards for protection of public health.”
Id. (citations omitted). With minor exceptions, the
SDWA applies “to each public water system in each
State.” Id. at 4 (quoting 42 U.S.C.
§300g). The SDWA enables the Administrator of the
Environmental Protection Agency to “publish maximum
contaminant level goals and promulgate national primary
drinking water regulations.” Id. (quoting 42
U.S.C. §300g-1(b)(1). After reviewing, the regulatory
scheme, the First Circuit concluded that “the SDWA
evinces a clear congressional intent to entrust the
regulation of the public drinking water systems to an expert
regulatory agency rather than the courts.”
Matoon, 980 F.2d at 4-5. The court determined that,
as a result, the federal common law nuisance claim was
preempted by the SDWA.
Matoon court further determined that the
plaintiffs' § 1983 claims were precluded by the SDWA
as well. The court noted the “elaborate enforcement
scheme” set forth in the SDWA, including that the EPA
Administrator may bring a civil action to compel SDWA
compliance and may issue compliance orders against violators
of SDWA regulations. Id. at 5-6 (citing 42 U.S.C.
§ 300g-3(b) and § 300g-3(b)(1)). In addition,
citizens may initiate enforcement proceedings against SDWA
violators and against the EPA Administrator for failure to
perform any non-discretionary duty under the SDWA. See
id.; 42 U.S.C. § 300j-8.
court explained, because “the SDWA enforcement scheme
is closely analogous to other enforcement schemes found
sufficiently comprehensive to evince a clear congressional
intent to preempt relief under section 1983, we hold that
appellants' section 1983 claims are preempted by the
SDWA.” Matoon, 980 F.2d at 6.
“Comprehensive federal statutory schemes, such as the
SDWA, preclude rights of action under section 1983 for
alleged deprivations of constitutional rights in the field
occupied by the federal statutory scheme.” Id. See
also Sea Clammers, 453 U.S. at 21 (FWPCA and MPRSA
supplant remedies under § 1983); City of Rancho
Palos Verdes v. Abrams, 544 U.S. 113 (2005) (remedial
scheme in Telecommunications Act precludes § 1983
action); Smith v. Robinson, 468 U.S. 992 (1984)
(Education of Handicapped Act provides exclusive remedy even
when plaintiffs assert constitutional claims); Zombro v.
Baltimore City Police Dept., 868 F.2d 1364
(4th Cir.), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 850
(1989) (ADEA, not § 1983, is exclusive remedy for age
discrimination claims under federal law).
essence of Plaintiffs' constitutional claims is that
Plaintiffs were injured as a result of exposure to
contaminated water. See Amended Compl. at
¶¶ 122, 138, 146, 154, 170, 186. Plaintiffs'
allegations are addressed by regulations that have been
promulgated by the EPA under the SDWA. See,
e.g., 40 C.F.R. § 141.11 (regulating maximum
contaminant levels); 40 C.F.R. § 141.31 et seq.
(reporting and record keeping); 40 C.F.R. § 141.60
et seq. (maximum contaminant and residual
disinfectant levels); 40 C.F.R. § 141.80 et
seq. (control of lead and copper/corrosion control/lead
service line replacement requirements); 40 C.F.R. §
141.110 (regulating treatment techniques). Indeed, the safety
of public water systems is a field occupied by the SDWA.
Matoon, 980 ...