Michigan Governor Gretchen Witmer announced Thursday that the state has reached a preliminary settlement agreement with victims of the Flint water crisis that exposed thousands of residents to unsafe levels of lead in their drinking water.
The settlement agreement provides for $600 million in damages to be paid by the state to residents of Flint who were exposed to lead in their drinking water as the result of the municipal water authority switching intakes to the Flint River in 2014. Nearly 80 percent of the settlement is set aside for children, with the majority earmarked for children who were first exposed when they were younger than age 6. The remaining funds are allocated for businesses and individuals who claimed that the lead exposure caused property damage or loss of business. Lead is a potent neurotoxin that causes developmental issues in younger children in addition to numerous other health conditions in adults. The settlement is second that the state has agreed to, following an $87 million agreement in 2017 to replace lead pipelines in Flint.
In a statement announcing the settlement, Witmer said that “what happened in Flint should have never happened, and financial compensation with this settlement is just one of the many ways we can continue to show our support for the city of Flint and its families.” Witmer committed to additional funding for line replacement, nutrition programs, and creating new oversight and advocacy offices to monitor environmental justice issues in the state. Michigan Attorney General Danna Nessel echoed Witmer’s comments, saying that “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.”