A $641 million settlement that would go towards Flint residents who suffered from being exposed to lead-contaminated water was granted preliminary approval by a judge on Thursday.
According to CBS News, the approval gives Flint residents until March 29 to decide if they would like to object and pursue their own claims. The settlement was initially announced last August by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and Governor Gretchen Whitmer. While the state of Michigan will pay $600 million of the settlement, Flint, a local hospital, and an engineering firm are also listed on the agreement.
“There may be no amount of money that would fully recognize the harm the residents of Flint have experienced, including their anxiety, fear, distrust, and anger over the events of the last seven years,” U.S. District Judge Judith Levy said in her 72-page opinion. “Litigation has its benefits but also its limitations, and the preliminary approval of this settlement does not affect or preclude other avenues of redress.”
Levy added that under the agreement, the money will be distributed to every child in Flint who was exposed to the water, any adult who can prove they suffered injury due to exposure to the water, select business owners, and anyone who paid water bills. The estates of those who died from Legionnaires’ disease are eligible to receive between $300,000 to $1.5 million. The judge has yet to make a decision on legal fees.
While it took six years, it seems like there might some sort of justice on the horizon regarding the Flint Water Crisis. Charges were filed last week against former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder for willful neglect of duty, and several other former Michigan officials also face a number of criminal charges, including involuntary manslaughter.
In 2014, then-Governor Rick Snyder and administration officials authorized the city to switch its water supply to the Flint River. For some reason, they didn’t think to treat the water to reduce corrosion, and this oversight resulted in lead from old pipes making its way into the tap water of Flint residents.
A group of experts have said that the use of river water resulted in an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease which led to the deaths of 12 Flint residents. In 2015, the city’s water supply was switched back to a Detroit regional water agency and there have been ongoing efforts to fix the water pipes in Flint.
Attorney Corey Stern, who represents 4,000 Flint residents, told CBS News that “the victims of the Flint water crisis no longer have to hope for a day of reckoning.”
“This settlement promises to deliver restitution for the families, and children most especially, whose lives were senselessly and permanently damaged because they were denied their basic right to safe, clean drinking water.”