By Tom Travis
“This is a remarkable achievement,” said U.S. Federal Judge Judith Levy, in her ruling handed down this week in the $626 million Flint Water Crisis settlement, one of the largest in Michigan history.
“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,” Levy said in her 178-page court ruling Wednesday.
In her ruling, Levy pointed out it was also “remarkable” for a city with less than 100,000 in population that 85,000 registration forms to file a claim in the water crisis settlement were submitted.
The settlement will in large part be paid by the State of Michigan, which will contribute $600 million; in addition, $20 million will be paid by the City of Flint’s insurance company; and $1.25 million will be paid by Rowe Professional services, the engineering firm which provided the City’s engineering services from 2002 to 2016. And recently McLaren Hospital reduced the amount they would contribute to the settlement from $20 million to $5 million.
McLaren executives deny claims that they were a source of the outbreak of Legionnaires disease which sickened 90 and took at least 11 lives in 2014 and 2015 and was linked by some sources to the tainted Flint water.
The settlement money will be paid to Flint residents, in large part to children affected by the lead-contaminated water. The settlement stipulates that 80 per cent of the payout will go to children under the age of 18 and and nearly 60 per cent of that money will go to children under the age of six who were affected by the contaminated water. Approximately 19,000 children and teens lived in Flint during the water crisis.
$200 million to be paid to the attorneys
Judge Levy announced at the time of her ruling that the matter of the exact amount of the attorney fees will be dealt with in a separate case to be heard later not specified. It is typical for attorneys in class-action lawsuits to walk away with in excess of one-third of the settlement money for payment of their services.
Link to Judge Levy’s entire 178-page ruling on the Flint Water Crisis:
The Flint Water Crisis began with a “flip of the switch” – April 25, 2014
The Flint Water Crisis has been referred to by many officials, politicians, and scientists as one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history.
April 25, 2014, was the date then-Mayor Dayne Walling flipped a switch at the Flint water plant, changing the city’s water source from Detroit water to the Flint River. For the next 18 months, improperly treated water from the river flowed into the pipes of of residents, schools, restaurants, and businesses in Flint.
And thus The Flint water crisis began, eventually leading to lead exposure in the bodies of thousands of Flint children, a chain of disastrous health, psychological, sociological, economic and political effects.
FAST Start pipe replacement began in March, 2016
Former Mayor Karen Weaver’s administration launched the FAST Start pipe replacement project in March 2016, funded by $100 million from the federal Water Infrastructure Improvement for the Nation (WIIN) Act.
The project continued with Mayor Sheldon Neeley’s administration in the Fall of 2019. Then the project was waylaid by the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. The FAST Start project resumed in June 2020.
In an April 23, 2021 press release Neeley announced that “as of April 9, 2021, there have been excavations of pipes at 26,819 homes and 9,941 lead and/or galvanized steel pipes have been replaced. The remaining used safe water pipe material and did not need to be replaced.
Prosecutions announced: “No velvet ropes in the criminal justice system.” Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud
Prosecutions against eight, from high ranking government officials down to local officials were announced in early 2021.
“Let me be clear, there are no velvet ropes in our criminal justice system. Nobody, no matter how powerful and how well connected, is above accountability when they commit a crime,” Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud stated in a press conference held in the Flint office of the state’s Attorney General.
Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and eight other former state and local officials, including Nick Lyon, former director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Service; Snyder’s “transformation manager” Rich Baird; and Dr. Eden Wells, the state’s former chief medical executive; faced charges connected to their alleged role in the Flint water crisis.
Two of those charged are former emergency managers for the city appointed by Snyder–Gerald Ambrose and Darnell Earley, as was Howard Croft, former director of public works for the City of Flint.
“It’s a slap in the face…” Former Mayor Karen Weaver said
At a rally in front of City Hall in December 2020, former Mayor Karen Weaver delivered a fiery speech about the Water Crisis settlement, when the amount then stood at $641 million, “It’s a slap in the face and a kick in the behind. The State brought a piggy bank when they should have brought a safe. They brought a piggy bank to pay us and it’s not right to pay between 80,000 and 100,000 people.”
The Water Crisis settlement “creates a path to resolve years of suffering” – Mayor Neeley
In a statement released by his office Wednesday, Mayor Neeley said:
“Today’s decision by Judge Levy creates a path to resolve years of suffering for the residents of Flint. While no amount of money will heal the wounds inflicted on this community, this judgement provides some sense of comfort to Flint families. There is still much work to do that includes a thorough review of the judgement.
According the City’s website 10,059 water line pipes have been replaced, as of July 2021. The City’s website has not been updated since July 2021.
Other lawsuits pending
Other lawsuits are still pending. Michigan publication Bridge reported, “Attorneys for the plaintiffs are still suing Lockwood, Andrews & Newman and Veolia, two engineering firms that advised the state and city during the crisis, along with separate litigation against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.”
EVM Managing Editor Tom Travis can be reached at email@example.com.