$600 million settlement reached in Flint Water Emergency

The majority of the money will settle claims filed on behalf of children
Published: Aug. 20, 2020 at 10:07 AM EDT
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - A preliminary agreement in the Flint water-related civil lawsuits has been reached, offering a State of Michigan-backed settlement of $600 million.

Thousands of people have sued the state for its role in the crisis, which started in 2014 after Flint switched its water source from Detroit’s municipal supply drawn out of Lake Huron to the Flint River.

More than 150 people died of Legionnaires’ disease. Additionally, there could be as many as 8,000 children with some level of lead poisoning.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced Thursday that the settlement has been agreed to by the state parties and the plaintiffs’ legal counsel following more than 18 months of negotiations. Several steps must be taken before money will be disbursed, including court approval of the agreement.

Nessel says the settlement will be the largest in the state’s history.

“Providing relief for the people of Flint and resolving these long-standing legal disputes has been a top priority for me since taking office,” Nessel said. “Flint residents have endured more than most, and to draw out the legal back-and-forth even longer would have achieved nothing but continued hardship.”

She hopes the settlement helps close “one of the most difficult chapters in our state’s history” and begins a new era when state government “works on behalf of all of its people.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said the state reached the settlement deal last week. She felt a responsibility to help reach the best possible settlement for Flint as quickly as possible when she took office on Jan. 1, 2019.

“What happened in Flint should have never happened, and financial compensation with this settlement is just one of the many ways we can continue to show our support for the city of Flint and its families,” Whitmer said in a statement.

The preliminary settlement includes language releasing the state, its agencies and employees from any further civil liability against anyone who receives money from the settlement fund. However, a criminal investigation continues into the causes of the water crisis, so some officials may still face charges.

Nessel said the $600 million settlement pushes the state’s contributions to Flint over $1 billion for the water crisis. The state already has provided over $409 million in assistance to the city and its residents, including $97 million to replace all lead water service lines in the city.

The state will continue paying for nutrition programs, child health care services, early childhood programs, lead prevention, school assistance, senior citizen services and other Flint water crisis programs in 2021, Whitmer said.

She pointed out that full healing from the water crisis, including restoring trust in state government, will take many years.

“We acknowledge that this settlement may not completely provide all that Flint needs, and that many will still feel justifiable frustration with a system and structure that at times is not adequate to fully address what has happened to people in Flint over the last six years,” Whitmer said.

She is “deeply sorry” for the past six years of “uncertainty and troubles” endured in Flint over the past six years.

“It is time for the state to do what it can and take this critical step forward so that we can keep working towards the brighter future that the people of Flint and our entire state deserve,” Whitmer said.

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