Flint water crisis: State agrees $600m settlement for victims | US News


The US state of Michigan says it has agreed a preliminary settlement to pay $600m (£455m) to victims of the Flint water crisis.

In a deal that could close a chapter on one of the country’s worst public health disasters in recent memory, most of the money would go to children affected by the poisoning.

Attorney general Dana Nessel said in a statement that, if approved, it would be the largest settlement in the state’s history.

Flint Michigan residents wait in line for a House Oversight and government Reform hearing on "Examining Federal Administration of the Safe Drinking Water Act in Flint, Michigan, Part III"  on Capitol Hill in Washington
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Most of the money from the settlement will go to children affected by the crisis

It is the culmination of 18 months of talks over how to compensate people who became ill from tap water, after state officials switched the city’s supply six years ago.

The move triggered a crisis that sparked national and international outrage.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who inherited the crisis upon taking office in 2019, admitted the compensation would not solve all of the city’s problems and promised to keep allocating resources to ensure Flint’s water was safe.

“What happened in Flint should never have happened,” she said in recorded remarks.

“The uncertainty and troubles that the people of Flint have endured is unconscionable. It is time for the state to do what it can.”

The settlement is subject to approval by a federal judge in Michigan.

U.S. President Barack Obama drinks a glass of filtered water from Flint, a city struggling with the effects of lead-poisoned drinking water, during a meeting will local and federal authorities in Michigan
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Barack Obama publicly drank a glass of filtered water from Flint during a meeting with local and federal authorities in Michigan

A ruling by the Supreme Court in January allowed Flint residents to pursue a civil rights lawsuit that accused the city and government officials of knowingly letting the water supply become contaminated with lead.

Flint changed its public water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River to cut costs during a financial crisis.

But the corrosive river water caused lead to leach from pipes, leading to highly elevated levels of the heavy metal neurotoxin and exposing more than 100,000 residents to elevated lead levels.

The city switched back to Lake Huron water the following year.

Court records said more than 25,000 people had been harmed through exposure to contaminants in Flint, including more than 5,000 children younger than 12.

Under the settlement, a total of 79.5% of the cash will be allocated to children exposed to the water, the majority of whom were under six years old at the time of the crisis.

Around 18% will go to adults and to settle property damage.

LeeAnne Walters, a 42-year-old Flint resident, welcomed the fact the deal was focused on children.

She said her twin sons, now nine, had been seeing a speech therapist after a paediatrician diagnosed them with an impediment caused by lead in the water.

“Even today, we still suffer with the rashes that started in 2014, all of us,” she said.

“Whatever was in that water then is still affecting us now.”

The settlement will resolve more than a hundred state and federal cases if it is approved, Ms Nessel said.

But she added that lawsuits filed by her predecessor against a subsidiary of French water company Veolia and Houston-based engineering services firm Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam (LAN) would continue unless they joined the settlement in 45 days.

Veolia North America and LAN have yet to comment on the development.



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