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Nessel, Whitmer announce $600M settlement in Flint water crisis

The state of Michigan has agreed to pay $600 million to compensate Flint residents whose health was damaged by lead-tainted drinking water.

FLINT, Mich. — Michigan will pay $600 million to compensate Flint residents whose health was damaged by lead-tainted drinking water after the city heeded state regulators’ advice not to treat it properly.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced Thursday that the settlement has been agreed to by the State parties and the plaintiffs’ legal counsel following more than 18 months of negotiations. Several steps must be taken before money will be disbursed.

It is intended to resolve all legal actions against the state for its role in a disaster that made the impoverished, majority-Black city a nationwide symbol of governmental mismanagement, the attorney said.

Under the deal, the state would establish a $600 million fund and Flint residents could file claims for compensation. The amount awarded per applicant would be based on how badly they were harmed, an attorney on the case told the Associated Press Wednesday.

It calls for devoting 80% of the money to people who were under age 18 during the period when Flint was using river water.

If approved, the settlement would push state spending on the Flint water crisis over $1 billion. Michigan already has pumped more than $400 million into replacing water pipes, purchasing filters and bottled water, children’s health care and other assistance.

Other suits are pending against Flint, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and private consultants that advised the city on water issues.

“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.”

"From our first month in office, Attorney General Nessel and I made it clear to our teams that even though we inherited this situation, it was our responsibility to achieve the best possible settlement for the children and families of Flint – as soon as we could," Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a video statement released Thursday.

"Protecting all Michiganders and their access to clean water is a priority for my administration to make sure nothing like this ever happens again," Whitmer continued.

"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."

The financial compensation within the settlement would go towards working to help Flint complete lead service-line replacement, millions of dollars in the 2021 state budget going to Flint's ongoing nutrition programs, child health care services, early childhood programs, lead prevention and abatement, school aid, services to seniors, and other community-supporting programs. 

Funds would also be used to create the Office of Clean Water Public Advocate and creating new lead and copper water quality standards. 

Additional information can be found by visiting flintsettlementfacts.org.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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