It has been 2,309 days—or over six years—since the people of Flint, Michigan have been without a clean and reliable water system. Now, Michigan officials are expected to announce this week that the state will pay around $600 million in damages to the victims of the crisis.
The New York Times reports that the settlement is “the culmination of more than 18 months of negotiations, meant to answer a difficult question for the residents of a city battered by catastrophe: What are the victims of the Flint water crisis owed?”
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the absolute clusterfuck that was and is the Flint water crisis, here’s a refresher provided by the Times:
In 2014, as a cost-saving measure for a city in deep financial distress, officials in Flint, led by a state-appointed emergency manager, switched the city’s water supply from Lake Huron to the notoriously foul Flint River. Officials failed to add corrosion controls to the tap water, investigations later found, allowing lead and other chemicals to leach from the old, worn pipes into the drinking supply.
It did not take long before Flint residents knew there was something terribly wrong with their water. It tasted metallic and often appeared to be green or light brown. Many people began feeling ill and experiencing skin rashes, hair loss and other mysterious symptoms.
But when they confronted elected officials and demonstrated outside City Hall, their pleas were dismissed.
Months later, testing showed increased and alarming levels of lead in the blood of some Flint children. Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a local pediatrician, and other scientists and researchers raised warnings that were initially disregarded by state and local officials. In fall 2015, in the face of overwhelming evidence, Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan acknowledged that the water was not fine.
So when it comes to the question of what victims of the water crisis are owed—given all the red tape involved in getting clean water to the city, the length of time it took for lead service lines to be replaced and the fact that people died due to the crisis—the answer is: Probably more than the state will end up paying.
From ABC Detroit:
Sources say the amount will be $600 million and there is a formula to distribute it. While that seems like a lot, compare that to the Michigan State University settlement in the sexual assault case of Dr. Larry Nassar – Some $500 million is going to some 500 survivors.
In the Flint cases, there could be some 8,000 kids with some level of lead poisoning and more than 150 people died of Legionnaires Disease.
On top of all that, some of the work to repair pipes in Flint remains unfinished.
Last week, Mayor Sheldon Neeley announced that the “multiyear project to replace lead service lines was in its final phase, with fewer than 2,500 Flint homes awaiting line replacement,” the Times reports.
Neely is also unsure if the settlement will be the end of the litigation that the city faces since the settlement only covers claims filed against the state of Michigan.
“My hope is this relieves the city because the city is also a defendant as a byproduct of the plaintiffs,” Neely said, ABC reports. “The city had to be part of the litigation against the state as well. So, it’s a passthrough.”
According to the Times, anyone who was living in Flint between 2014 and 2016 could be eligible for a claim. The distribution of payments is expected to begin in spring 2021.
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