Judge praises $97M Flint settlement as ‘fair’

Leonard N. Fleming
The Detroit News

A Detroit federal judge approved a four-year, $97 million settlement of a lawsuit related to the Flint water crisis, calling it “fair and reasonable” and “in the best interests of the citizens of Flint and the state.”

Judge David Lawson said he the court would maintain jurisdiction over the case and enforce any disputes with residents.

The state will spend an additional $47 million to help ensure safe drinking water in Flint by replacing lead pipes and providing free bottled water under the settlement. The money is in addition to $40 million previously budgeted to address Flint’s widespread lead-contamination crisis and another $10 million to cover unexpected costs, bringing the total to $97 million.

The settlement stemmed from a lawsuit filed last year by a coalition of religious, environmental and civil rights activists that alleged Flint water was not safe to drink because state and city officials were violating the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The agreement covers a litany of work in Flint including replacing 18,000 lead and other pipes as well as providing continued bottled water distribution and funding of health care programs for affected residents in the city of nearly 100,000 residents.

The agreement targets spending $87 million with the remaining $10 million saved in reserve. If more pipes need to be replaced, the state will make “reasonable efforts” to “secure more money in the legislature,” Lawson said.

The judge praised Michigan Gov. Rick Gov. Snyder by saying the agreement would not have been possible without his involvement, “and I applaud the governor for taking that initiative.” The agreement, he said, addresses short and long-term concerns over water issues in Flint.

Pastor Alfred Harris Sr., a member of the Concerned Pastors for Social Action in Flint who was in the courtroom, praised the agreement.

“I’m feeling real good about it,” he said before the hearing. “Not only are you going to start the repair process, but you’re going to finish it. And I’m grateful for that.”