Flint residents are finally getting a break for all their suffering. The state of Michigan will pay $600 million in a settlement for victims of the water crisis that left nearly 100,000 people with unhealthy concentrations of lead in their common drinking water, according to an initial report from The New York Times.
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Michigan paying $600 million to water crisis survivors in Flint
This settlement payout was later confirmed by the involved legal team, and finalized on Thursday. The deal was negotiated between Cohen, Milstein, Sellers, and Toll, PLLC and state attorneys — in addition to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder.
The $600-million payout will be available for residents and businesses negatively affected during the crisis via direct payments from a court-monitored compensation fund. Almost 80% of this money will go toward children less than 18 years old, reports Gizmodo.
A long-awaited development, this news comes more than six years after Flint's water crisis became a widely-known problem. In 2014, state-appointed emergency manager Darnell Earley led city officials when they haphazardly switched Flint's water source without using essential treatment measures.
Lawsuits in Flint, Michigan as water pipes corrode
Consequently, the water corroded the pipes as it traversed the city, leaching lead into the public water supply. The city and state waited more than a year to declare a state of emergency, and help residents out with free bottled water.
Since the error began to affect the city, several lawsuits surfaced, some representing residents and others representing the state. But this latest settlement came after thousands of residents sued state and local government officials in a 2016 class-action lawsuit.
Survivor eligibility for $600 million payout
Together, they accused public and private officials of creating the health crisis of lead-containing water. The Supreme Court moved the case forward this year, but negotiations for settlement went on for more than a year, reports the Times.
Everyone who lived in Flint between 2014 and 2016 could be eligible for a claim, which will probably be lotted out by Spring 2021, the Times reports. This is the first step the state has taken toward accountability in paying for causing and later allowing the crisis to continue for so long.
However, attorneys will continue the legal battle against other defendants like private engineering firms that helped exacerbate the crisis when they gave the city poor advice. As long-neglected infrastructures suffer from underwhelming and mismanaged leadership, we can only hope Flint's example becomes a worst-case-scenario for the country.