Michigan will pay $600 million to compensate Flint residents whose health was damaged by lead-tainted drinking water after the city heeded state regulators’ advice not to treat it properly, an attorney involved in the negotiations told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Details will be released later this week, according to the attorney, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about it ahead of an official announcement. The settlement was first reported by The Detroit News, MLive.com and WXZY-TV.
It is intended to resolve all legal actions against the state for its role in a disaster that made the impoverished, majority-Black city a nationwide symbol of governmental mismanagement, the attorney said.
The offices of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel have been negotiating for more than 18 months with lawyers for thousands of Flint residents who have filed suits against the state.
Whitmer announced the following changes would be implemented following the negotiation.
- 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.
“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.
Nessel responded to the settlement as well Thursday morning in a video message.
“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. This settlement focuses on the children and the future of Flint, and the State will do all it can to make this a step forward in the healing process for one of Michigan’s most resilient cities. Ultimately, by reaching this agreement, I hope we can begin the process of closing one of the most difficult chapters in our State’s history and writing a new one that starts with a government that works on behalf of all of its people.”Attorney General Dana Nessel
Flint switched its water source from the city of Detroit to the Flint River to save money in 2014, while under control of a state-appointed emergency manager. State environmental regulators advised Flint, located about about 70 miles (112.65 kilometers) north of Detroit, not to apply corrosion controls to the water, which was contaminated by lead from aging pipes.
Residents of the city with a population of nearly 100,000 people used bottled water quickly began complaining that the water was discolored and had a bad taste and smell. They blamed it for rashes, hair loss and other health concerns, but local and state officials insisted it was safe.
Researchers with Virginia Tech University reported in summer 2015 that samples of Flint water had abnormally high lead levels. Shortly afterward, a group of doctors announced that local children had high levels of lead in their blood and urged Flint to stop using water from the river.