Agreement reached in civil lawsuit involving Flint Water Crisis

A federal judge approved a deal Tuesday to replace water lines at 18,000 homes in Flint, Michigan, marking a permanent fix to overcome the disastrous decision in 2014 to draw water from a river without treating it to prevent lead contamination.

Under the deal approved Tuesday, Flint will be responsible for replacing lead and galvanized-steel lines that bring water into homes.

MI will provide $87 million in a combination of state and federal money, according to the settlement; $47 million of that must come from sources other than Obama-era federal water infrastructure improvement funds.

While the drinking water in Flint was officially in compliance with federal regulations as of January, Mayor Karen Weaver told residents that the water supply won't be totally safe until the town's aging network of contaminated lead pipes are completely replaced.

The lawsuit was brought against representatives of the city and state by Concerned Pastors for Social Action, a local group of religious leaders in Flint and the surrounding areas, the ACLU of MI and the Natural Resources Defense Council. While under the control of state-appointed financial managers, the city tapped the Flint River as its water source while a new pipeline was being built to Lake Huron.

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It also mandates expanded Medicaid services to cover such programs as monitoring the blood of local children for elevated lead levels. For the first time, there will be an enforceable commitment to get the lead pipes out of the ground. The Department of Environmental Quality failed to treat the corrosive water, which ate into the city's iron and lead pipes, causing lead to leach into the drinking water. The money will come from both state and federal funds. "The people of Flint are owed at least this much".

This week marked a turning point in the response to the Flint Water Crisis. Lead has been tied to a host of medical problems, especially in the nervous system.

Allen Overton, who spoke on behalf of a coalition of pastors involved in the lawsuit, praised the settlement for finally getting Flint the legal boost it needed to get clean water back. The deal also requires MI to continue operating nine bottled water and filter distribution centers until May 1, after which they may begin closing procedures depending on the water quality.

The agreement also requires the State to maintain a door-to-door water filter installation and education program, to extensively monitor Flint's tap water for lead, and to continue to make bottled water available to Flint residents.

"They keep telling me the water is safe to use (with filters) ... but to me, if you still have to use filters, then the water isn't safe", she said.

  • Phil Peters