A judge approved a $626 million settlement for Flint residents and others exposed to lead contaminated water.
According to NPR, the majority of the settlement will be paid by the state of Michigan. Concerns began when residents of Flint, which is a majority-black city where 40% of people live in poverty, complained about the odor and color of their water.
The city switched back to receiving water from the Great Lakes Water Authority as its primary water source on Oct. 16, 2015, but many homes/sites continued to have elevated lead levels.
The $626 million deal to settle most lawsuits filed by Flint residents is one of the largest in the state’s history, according to District Judge Judith Levy’s ruling, resolving thousands of claims pending in court.
The settlement was announced in August 2020 by Attorney General Dana Nessel and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. According to The Detroit News, officials said they received 50,614 registrations for unique claims. Another 1,219 claims were included as late registrants and the city had about 100,000 residents at the time of the water crisis. The population dropped to more than 95,000 during the 2020 census, however.
“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,” said Levy in the 178-page ruling.
Attorneys are still seeking as much as $200 million in legal fees, however, which will be addressed at a later date and in a separate order.
Under the terms of the agreement, 80% of the monetary award will go to residents who were younger than 18 at the time of their exposure, and more than half of that amount will go toward the children younger than 6, reported The Washington Post. The remaining 20% of the payments will go to plaintiffs whose lawsuits pertain to other issues, including property damage and loss of business revenue.
The settling defendants include the state of Michigan; the city of Flint; McLaren Health Care Corp.; and consulting firm Rowe Professional Services Co. Under the agreement, the state will pay $600 million, Flint $20 million, McLaren $5 million and Rowe $1.25 million, reported The Detroit News.