Judge approves $626 million settlement in Flint water crisis litigation

A settlement has been reached in the ongoing Flint, Michigan water crisis, with a price tag of $626 million.

In 2014, the city of Flint changed its water source from Detroit to the Flint River, which was supposed to be temporary and a way for the city to save money. However, soon after the change occurred, residents began complaining about the water’s taste, smell, and appearance, as well as health issues previously not seen, arising. The water was discovered to be contaminated with lead soon after the switch was made, but little has been done to remedy the problem until now.

U.S. District Judge Judith Levy ruled that a $626 million settlement was suitable for the crisis. In her opinion, she wrote, “The settlement reached here is a remarkable achievement for many reasons, not the least of which is that it sets forth a comprehensive compensation program and timeline that is consistent for every qualifying participant.”

The bulk of the settlement money, totalling $600 million, will come from the state of Michigan. In addition, Flint will pay $20 million, McLaren Health will pay $5 million, and Rowe Professional Services will pay $1.25 million. At least 80% will go towards children’s health, which has suffered greatly from the lead contamination. Attorneys are requesting $200 million in legal fees, which Levy said will be a decision made on another day. 

Former head of the Michigan drinking water division, Liane Shekter Smith, was fired over the water crisis. The state has now acknowledged that she was wrongfully fired and has agreed to pay her $300,000 in arbitration.

A total of nine people are being charged with crimes, and all have pleaded not guilty so far. One of these people is former Michigan Governor Rick Synder who authorized the water source change in 2014 while a new water pipeline was being constructed. The Flint River was not properly treated, though, resulting in lead from corroded pipes seeping into the water in people’s homes. Synder didn’t address the water crisis until September 2015, at which point many children were being treated for lead poisoning. 




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