Flint water plant | Susan J. Demas
In a 178-page opinion late Wednesday afternoon, a federal judge formally approved a historic settlement for Flint residents totaling $626.25 million.
The settlement comes seven years after the city’s water source was switched to the Flint River, while under emergency management during the former Gov. Rick Snyder administration, without applying corrosion inhibitors.
The result was widespread lead contamination in the city’s drinking water, a significant outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease and long-term consequences that are yet to be seen for thousands of children exposed to lead in the water.
“The portion of the $626.25 million settlement to be paid by the State of Michigan is one of the largest settlements in the State’s history,” Judge Judith Levy’s opinion reads, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.
Pastor Chris Martin of Flint’s Cathedral of Faith Church told the Advance Thursday that the settlement is a good start, but does not go far enough to cover the great losses and damages experienced by the city.
“The residents of the city of Flint have been waiting for total justice for a while. This does not equate to total justice,” Martin said. “There’s still federal litigation that’s pending right now. But this is definitely a step in the right direction to start to make people whole.”
Martin said the community has always maintained that this lawsuit was “not enough,” as it gives something to residents but leaves behind businesses who suffered structural damage and loss of revenue and residential homes still having to deal with lead-laced water fixtures.
“This lawsuit should have been no less than $2-$3 billion just for damages done to residents,” Martin said. “I mean, this lawsuit nowhere near covers the amount of damages that was done by a Republican governor and Republican legislature. … It doesn’t go far enough. It’s some remediation, but not enough.”
State Attorney General Dana Nessel acknowledged in a statement that the settlement brings only “partial relief” to those affected, but hopes it can be “acknowledged as a positive step in the healing process.”
“The people of Flint deserve accountability and to be compensated for any injuries they suffered. I am proud of my civil team’s tireless work to reach this historic settlement. Their commitment to this process cannot be understated,” Nessel said.
The residents of the city of Flint have been waiting for total justice for a while. This does not equate to total justice.
– Pastor Chris Martin of Flint's Cathedral of Faith Church
Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who inherited the aftermath of the Flint water crisis and by default became the defendant in lawsuits against the state in which Snyder had previously been named, said she knows there is much more work to be done.
“What happened in Flint should never have happened, and no amount of money can completely compensate people for what they have endured,” Whitmer said.
“We hope this settlement helps the healing continue as we keep working to make sure that people have access to clean water in Flint and communities all across Michigan,” Whitmer continued. “While this chapter may have concluded, we hear and respect those voices who remind us that healing Flint will take a long time.”
The governor emphasized the state’s “long-term commitment to the people of Flint is undiminished, and we will keep working to help build the bright future that the people of Flint deserve.”
Martin said he believes Whitmer has done “all she could do to make this deal stick,” given the fact that she “inherited a mess … because of her predecessor’s negligence.”
State Sen. Jim Ananich (D-Flint) praised the settlement as proof that the state can be held accountable for misdeeds that harm Michiganders.
“No amount of money can change what happened to my city, but this settlement is a measure of justice; justice that we are owed,” Ananich said in a statement Wednesday. “It is also an important declaration that the State will be held accountable when its actions — or inactions — cause irreparable harm to the people who live here.
“That said, our quest for justice does not end here, not by a long shot. There is still much work to do to make sure that anyone who played a role in poisoning the children of Flint answers to the law,” Ananich added.
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