There’s a strong environmental theme emerging in the news so far this morning – and here’s another bit. The Associated Press are reporting that they understand that Michigan will pay $600 million to compensate Flint residents whose health was damaged by lead-tainted drinking water.
Details will be released later this week, according to an attorney who spoke to the AP. It is intended to resolve all legal actions against the state for its role in a disaster that made the impoverished, majority-Black city a nationwide symbol of governmental mismanagement.
The offices of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney general Dana Nessel have been negotiating for more than 18 months with lawyers for thousands of Flint residents. A spokesman for Nessel, declined to confirm the reports of a deal.
Flint switched its water source from the city of Detroit to the Flint River to save money in 2014, while under control of a state-appointed emergency manager. State environmental regulators advised Flint not to apply corrosion controls to the water, which was contaminated by lead from ageing pipes.
Residents of the city with a population of nearly 100,000 began complaining that the water was discolored and had a bad taste and smell. They blamed it for rashes, hair loss and other health concerns, but local and state officials insisted it was safe. Residents had to use bottled water for drinking and household needs for more than a year.
Researchers with Virginia Tech University finally reported in summer 2015 that samples of Flint water had abnormally high lead levels. Shortly afterward, a group of doctors announced that local children had high levels of lead in their blood.
The governor at the time, Rick Snyder eventually acknowledged the problem, accepted the resignation of his environmental chief and pledged to aid the city, which resumed using Detroit water.
Under the deal, the state would establish a $600 million fund and Flint residents could file claims for compensation. The amount awarded per applicant would be based on how badly they were harmed.
If approved, the settlement would push state spending on the Flint water crisis over $1 billion. Michigan already has pumped more than $400 million into replacing water pipes, purchasing filters and bottled water, children’s health care and other assistance.