The state of Michigan has agreed to pay $600 million to residents of Flint, whose health was afflicted by lead-tainted drinking water.
The offices of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel announced an agreement Thursday, after 18 months of negotiations with lawyers representing thousands of Flint residents who have filed lawsuits against the state.
Whitmer, who took office last year, said in a statement that the money may still not be enough in some people’s minds. “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,” she added.
“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,” Whitmer told NBC News.
Nessel told reporters the majority of the settlement will go toward resolving claims that benefit children who were found to have elevated levels of lead in their blood. According to health officials, exposure to lead can lead to behavioral problems and learning disabilities in children.
Under the settlement, the state will set up a $600 million fund for residents to file claims for compensation. The amount an applicant receives will be based on how badly they were harmed. The settlement also calls for 80% of the fund to go to people who were younger than 18 during the period when Flint was using river water.
“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,” Nessel said in a statement.
“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.”
The Flint water crisis started in 2014 when the drinking water source for the city of Flint was changed from treated water from Lake Huron and the Detroit River to the Flint River. Officials failed to apply corrosion inhibitors to the water. As a result, lead from aging pipes leaked into the water supply. Between 6,000 and 12,000 children were affected.
Government officials announced in 2017 that the water in Flint met federal standards, but the mayor at the time, Karen Weaver, along with scientists and residents of Flint, did not believe the claims.