The state of Michigan will pay a $600 million settlement to residents who were affected by the contaminated water in Flint.
State Attorney General Dana Nessel announced the development in a press release on Thursday, Aug. 20.
“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.”
About 80 percent of the settlement will go to children or people who were minors when they were exposed to the water. Children under the age of six are expected to get most of the money and two percent of the funds will be allocated to special education programs.
“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,” the attorney general said. “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.”
An additional 18 percent will go to claims of adults and for property damage during the crisis and 1 percent will go to businesses that faced loss as a result of the crisis.
The water crisis started in 2014 after Flint’s water supply was switched from Lake Huron to the Flint River to save money. After the change, residents noticed changes in the water’s taste, smell and color. As time progressed, there were reports of illness among children. Tests conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency and Virginia Tech detected unsafe amounts of lead in the water, per CNN.
The settlement is expected to resolve over 100 lawsuits against the state, reported The Detroit News. However, litigation against Veolia and LAN, the engineering firms that worked on the water switch, is pending. The state of Michigan is among the plaintiffs targeting the companies.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer expressed hope for healing in a statement about the settlement.
“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,” Whitmer said on Thursday. “We hear and respect those voices and understand that healing Flint will take a long time, but our ongoing efforts and today’s settlement announcement are important steps in helping all of us move forward.”
Michael Pitt, a lawyer representing affected Flint residents, told The Detroit News he is satisfied with the outcome.
“Although the settlement is not perfect, overall, it is very good,” Pitt said. “It is a fair settlement. We believe fervently it is in the best interest of the Flint community. We should not ever let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”