A settlement has been reached for the victims involved in the lead water crisis in Flint, Michigan.
U.S. District Judge Judith Levy approved a $626 million payout on Nov. 10 to the tens of thousands of residents who were affected by the contaminated water. The payout is reportedly one of the largest civil settlements in Michigan’s history.
Payments will most likely go to individuals who were children at the time of the incident, adults who can prove that their illnesses were caused by the infected water, and certain business owners and anyone who paid water bills. About 80 percent of what’s left after legal fees have been paid will be set aside for children, AP reported.
Ted Leopold, one of the lead attorneys in the litigation, described the moment as “a historic and momentous day for the residents of Flint, who will finally begin to see justice served.”
The majority of the payout will come from the state, while the city while the city will pay roughly $20 million toward the settlement, with McLaren Health contributing $5 million and an engineering firm, Rowe Professional Services, another $1.25 million. Even after the big victory for residents, lawsuits are still pending against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, McLaren and other engineering firms.
Troubles began in 2014 after city managers appointed by Rick Snyder, the Republican governor of Michigan at the time, switched Flint’s water supply to the Flint River from Lake Huron in an effort to cut costs. The change in the water pH caused lead to leach from pipes, contaminating residential drinking water.
Flint resident Melissa Mays said her sons were deeply affected by the lead poisoning. The 43-year-old social worker claimed they suffered from various medical issues and learning challenges due to the lead poisoning.
“Hopefully it’ll be enough to help kids with tutors and getting the medical care they need to help them recover from this,” Mays said. “A lot of this isn’t covered by insurance. These additional needs cost money.”
“We’ve made history,” she added, before stating that she hopes this case “sets a precedent to maybe don’t poison people. It costs more in the long run.”
More individuals are expected to face charges for their role in what was considered environmental racism given Flint’s predominantly Black population. Nine people, including Snyder, have been charged with crimes.Snyder was charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty over the lead-poisoning of the city’s drinking water. They all have pleaded not guilty.