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Thursday, August 20, 2020

Michigan reaches $600M settlement in Flint water crisis lawsuits

Posted By on Thu, Aug 20, 2020 at 10:01 AM

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The state of Michigan has reached a historic $600 million settlement stemming from lawsuits filed by Flint residents impacted by the city’s water crisis.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer made the announcement in a recorded video message published on Thursday on behalf of herself and Attorney General Dana Nessel.

"From our first month in office, we made it clear to our teams that even though we inherited a situation that occurred before we took office, it was our obligation to get the best possible settlement for the children and families of Flint — as quickly as we could," she said.

"Flint residents have been beyond patient," she added. "The uncertainty and troubles that the people of Flint have endured is unconscionable."



According to a press release, an agreement has been reached on the terms of a settlement, and now the parties are working to document all the details. A website, flintsettlementfacts.org, has also been created.

According to the terms of the settlement published on the website, the majority of the money, 79.5%, is going to children, while 18% is going to adults.

Children are most vulnerable to lead poisoning, which can cause heart disorders, lowered IQ, reduced kidney function, and learning and behavioral problems. As many as 20,000 children lived in Flint during the water crisis.

Whitmer said additional measures to help Flint include:

• Working to help the city complete lead service-line replacement;

• A 2021 State budget that includes millions of dollars for Flint’s ongoing nutrition programs, child health care services, early childhood programs, lead prevention and abatement, school aid, services to seniors, and other programs supporting people in Flint who were previously exposed to lead and other contaminants.

• A 2020 budget that included $120M to clean up drinking water through investments in water infrastructure;

• Creating the Office of the Clean Water Public Advocate, and the appointment of a clean water public advocate and an environmental justice public advocate; and

• New lead and copper water quality standards that are the strictest in the nation.

• New lead and copper water quality standards that are the strictest in the nation.

Numerous lawsuits have been filed against the state, former Gov. Rick Snyder, and other state and city officials after Flint, under state emergency management, switched its drinking water supply to the Flint River to save money in 2014. The decision created one of the nation’s worst public health disasters in decades, contaminating drinking water with dangerous levels of lead.

Lawsuits allege the Snyder administration ignored warning signs of serious health hazards in the predominantly Black city. State officials failed to implement corrosion-control treatments, causing lead, iron, and rust to leach from aging pipes into the water supply.

The state announced no new criminal charges, and Snyder has not been charged.

A 2020 VICE investigation suggested Snyder knew about the crisis earlier than he testified under oath. And an audio recording obtained by Metro Times showed Snyder's "fixer" Rich Baird lied about warnings Snyder and his administration received and attempted to pay off a sick Flint couple.

The settlement would be more than the $546 million the state has paid out in court judgements and settlements for every lawsuit against it combined in the last 10 years.

Lee DeVito contributed to this report.

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