Aug 20, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Michigan to pay Flint water crisis victims $600 million

The City of Flint Water Plant is illuminated by moonlight on January 23, 2016 in Flint, Michigan.
Michigan's City of Flint Water Plant illuminated by moonlight. Photo: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Michigan has agreed to pay $600 million to settle civil lawsuits brought over the deadly Flint water crisis, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer confirmed on Thursday.

Why it matters: Flint's drinking water was contaminated with high levels of lead in 2014 after the city changed its water source from treated Detroit Water and Sewerage Department water to the Flint River — causing a public health crisis.

  • The cost-cutting measure left residents sick and reliant on bottled water.
  • At least 12 people died in an outbreak of the Legionnaires' disease during the crisis, PBS writes, noting the tally is likely higher.
  • Fetal death rates jumped 58%, lead levels in children's blood spiked and thousands of residents were told in 2017 they would lose their homes if they didn't pay water bills.

Where it stands: Flint switched back to Detroit Water in 2015, 18 months after the crisis began. But some work to repair pipes remains unfinished, per the New York Times — and using bottled water for drinking, bathing and cooking is common.

  • Last year, Michigan's attorney general dropped cases against eight current and former officials accused of failing to alerting the public about the safety of Flint's drinking water.
  • The attorney general's office said this April it was still pursuing its criminal investigation.

What they're saying: Councilman Eric Mays said the state's settlement was "primarily going to the kids" who've alleged in lawsuits in state and federal court that "they were lead-poisoned by city water while state-appointed emergency managers were running the city," per MLive.

  • "We acknowledge that this settlement may not completely provide all that Flint needs, and that many will still feel justifiable frustration with a system and structure that at times is not adequate to fully address what has happened to people in Flint over the last six years," the governor's office said in a statement.
  • "What happened in Flint should have never happened," Whitmer added in a video statement, acknowledging that Flint residents have been "beyond patient."
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