Court Approves Massive Settlement in Tainted Water Case


( – In 2015, reports started trickling in, indicating residents of Flint, Michigan, were forced to drink dirty, contaminated water. Local sources contained high levels of lead and were making people sick. Public officials repeatedly dismissed concerns about the water quality in the city. When authorities finally started paying attention, it still took years to fix the problem. Now, a judge has approved more than $600 million in settlement payments nearly six years after the media storm first started.

Flint Water Crisis Explained

The water crisis in Flint began in 2014 when officials switched the city’s water supply from the Detroit water system to the Flint River. Then-Governor Rick Snyder’s (R) administration approved the decision because it was cheaper to get water from the river than from Detroit.

Unfortunately, neither Flint nor the state adequately tested the river for quality concerns. The water was far more acidic than the Detroit water; it started destroying the city’s pipes. That degradation introduced alarming lead levels into the water, which then poured out of residential and commercial faucets around the city.

Flint residents complained about foul-smelling, discolored water causing rashes and other ailments, but officials largely ignored their concerns. The water also triggered an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease — a severe type of pneumonia — infecting more than 80 people and killing 12. However, local officials have not yet attributed those infections and deaths to the water.

Michigan officials didn’t take steps to remedy the water contamination until an international media outcry rendered the issue impossible to ignore. In 2021, a grand jury indicted nine officials on 42 charges — including Snyder.

Lawsuit Settlement Approved

On November 10, US District Court, Eastern District of Michigan Judge Judith Levy approved a settlement of $626.25 million. The funds will settle most of the lawsuits brought by Flint residents against the city and state. Levy ruled the children of Flint were exposed to dangerous levels of lead, while the contamination affected tens of thousands of residents.

Judge Levy says the settlement is the largest in Michigan’s history. She called it a “remarkable achievement” because it “sets forth a comprehensive compensation program and timeline” for every qualified person, even those who were not part of a lawsuit.

Six years after the crisis began, people in Flint are finally getting the financial compensation they deserve. The city also has clean drinking water again, but the impact of the crisis left its mark. Many residents still don’t trust the water.

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