6 years after it started, Michigan reaches $600M settlement for Flint water crisis lawsuits

80 percent of fund to be spent on child claims

FILE - In this March 21, 2016, file photo, the Flint Water Plant water tower is seen in Flint, Mich. Multiple news outlets report Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020, that the state of Michigan has reached a $600 million agreement to compensate Flint residents whose health was damaged by lead-tainted drinking water. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File) (Carlos Osorio, Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

FLINT, Mich. – The Michigan Attorney General’s Office announced a preliminary $600 million settlement in lawsuits related to the Flint Water Crisis on Thursday, more than six years after the crisis started.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced that the settlement has been agreed to by the State parties and the plaintiffs’ legal counsel following more than 18 months of negotiations. A summary of the preliminary settlement has been released to the public. Complete details will be made available once the formal settlement is completed, which is expected within about 45 days.

The preliminary agreement specifies that about 80 percent of the net settlement fund will be spent on claims of children who were minors when first exposed to the Flint River water, with a large majority of that amount to be paid for claims of children age 6 and younger, and earmarking 2 percent to go to special education services in Genesee County.

Another 18 percent of the net settlement funds are to be spent on claims of adults and for property damage. Roughly 1 percent will go toward claims for business losses.

If the settlement is approved and funds are distributed to claimants, the state will have contributed over $1 billion to aid in the city’s relief and recovery efforts. Past contributions include a settlement agreement whereby $97 million was made available to replace all of the city’s lead service lines in its water system. To date, the state has spent more than $409 million in response to the Flint water emergency.

If the settlement receives final court approval, it is likely to be the largest in Michigan state government history, affecting tens of thousands of people and resolving more than a hundred cases in state and federal trial and appellate courts.

“Providing relief for the people of Flint and resolving these long-standing legal disputes has been a top priority for me since taking office,” Nessel said. “Flint residents have endured more than most, and to draw out the legal back-and-forth even longer would have achieved nothing but continued hardship. This settlement focuses on the children and the future of Flint, and the State will do all it can to make this a step forward in the healing process for one of Michigan’s most resilient cities. Ultimately, by reaching this agreement, I hope we can begin the process of closing one of the most difficult chapters in our State’s history and writing a new one that starts with a government that works on behalf of all of its people.”

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, located about about 70 miles (112.65 kilometers) north of Detroit, not to apply corrosion controls to the water, which was contaminated by lead from aging pipes.

Residents of the city with a population of nearly 100,000 people used bottled water quickly 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.

Researchers with Virginia Tech University 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 and urged Flint to stop using water from the river.

Then- Gov. Rick Snyder eventually acknowledged the problem, accepted the resignation of his environmental chief and pledged to aid the city, which resumed using Detroit water.

Michigan Gov. Whitmer released a statement on the settlement:

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel released this video statement:

About the Author:

Ken Haddad is the digital content and audience manager for WDIV / ClickOnDetroit.com. He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters. He's been with WDIV since 2013. He enjoys suffering through Lions games on Sundays in the fall.