MICHIGAN—Republican officials repeatedly dismissed Flint residents who said their water was making them sick, until it turned into a full-blown crisis. Now, with a state government under Democratic control, Michigan is finally making some amends—in a big way.
Attorney General Dana Nessel this week announced that a court has approved the largest civil settlement in state history (about $626 million) that will be mostly spent on settling claims of children ages six and younger who were minors when first exposed to the Flint River water.
“This historic settlement cannot undo the unimaginable hardship and heartbreaking health effects these families and children in Flint have endured,” Nessel said in a statement. “This ruling provides families with much needed compensation for the injuries they have suffered.”
Republican Gov. Rick Snyder was in office in 2014 when Flint, under state management, began using the Flint River as a water source. But unlike the previous supply, the water wasn’t treated to reduce the impact on old pipes, causing lead poisoning and illnesses throughout the city.
Flint returned to a Detroit-area water supplier in fall 2015. As of last month, more than 10,000 pipes have since been replaced, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Officials said the state of Michigan will pay $600 million—along with $20 million from the city of Flint, through its insurer; $5 million from McLaren Regional Medical Center; and $1.25 million from Rowe Professional Services Co.
In addition to settling claims from children, about 18% of the settlement will be spent on claims of adults and for property damage. Another 3% of the settlement is earmarked for special education services in Genesee County, and claims for losses from local businesses.
US District Judge Judith Levy gave preliminary approval to the settlement in January 2021, which established the process through which Flint residents could begin to file settlement claims. After a three-day hearing, she approved the settlement in November 2021.
And following an affirmation from the 6th Circuit US Court of Appeals this month, Genesee County Circuit Court Chief Judge David J. Newblatt granted final judgment to approve the settlement this week. A claims administrator will review claims and ensure the cash is paid out.
Other lawsuits are still in play against the US Environmental Protection Agency and two engineering firms that declined to join the settlement, reports Bridge Michigan. Efforts to charge public officials—like Snyder—for their role in the crisis have so far faltered in court.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.