Earlier this week a US judge approved a $626 million settlement for the victims of Flint’s water crisis, seven years after the water supply in the town was contaminated with harmful lead.
Not only has the water crisis been one of the worst public health concerns in recent history, it has also acted as a symbol of racial inequality, given that 56% of Flint’s population is African-American.
US District Court Judge, Judith E. Levy, approved the historic settlement on Wednesday, on the grounds that it was adequate, reasonable, and fair.
“The settlement reached here is a remarkable achievement for many reasons, not the least of which is that it sets forth a comprehensive compensation program and timeline that is consistent for every qualifying participant, regardless of whether they are members of a class or are non-class individuals represented by their own counsel,”Judge Judith Levy
Issues in Flint began in 2014, after the town switched its water supply from Lake Huron to Flint River, in an effort to cut overall expenditure. When corrosion inhibitors were failed to be applied to the water, lead from aged pipes began leaching into the water supply.
In total, around 100,000 residents were exposed to water contaminated with lead. Scientific studies, including one from the American Journal of Public Health, confirmed this exposure to elevated lead levels.
Thousands of children in Flint were left vulnerable to drinking water with high levels of lead, an issue which poses many health risks for children; including decreased intellectual function.
Judge Levy’s order includes 80% of the settlement being paid to children who were under the age of 18 at the time of the lead contamination. She believes this to be fair and reasonable, stating, “those who were exposed to contaminated Flint water at a younger age will experience the more harm than older people,” given that they are most at risk to the effects of lead.
“Band-Aid on a Bullet Wound”
Despite the settlement being one of the largest in Michigan’s history, reactions to the news have been anything but positive.
Former Mayor, Karen Weaver, stated that she was not surprised the settlement was approved, as there was no opposition from officials during the proposal. However, Weaver argues that she had previously discussed with former Governor, Rick Snyder, that a settlement amount should be at least $1.5 billion. In effect, Wednesday’s approved settlement is nowhere near enough.
“I never thought the amount was reflective of the lives that have been damaged and those that aren’t here anymore,”Karen Weaver, Former Flint Mayor
An emotional Weaver said, “it is important to remember lives were lost, women have had miscarriages and children and residents have suffered.”
In January, former Governor, Rick Snyder, was charged with two counts of wilful neglect of duty over the water crisis.