Reports say the state of Michigan will announce a settlement this week with victims of Flint’s water crisis. People in that city have protested for years over unsafe amounts of lead in their drinking water. The agreement reportedly calls for a payment of $600 million. It follows more than a year-and-a-half of negotiations.
Although the state claims Flint’s water quality has met federal standards for three years running, many residents don’t trust the officials and don’t trust the water.
One Flint resident told CBS News this week that no amount of money will heal the suffering of those impacted by the city’s health crisis — and the coronavirus pandemic has just made their situation worse. Craig Davis has lived in Flint his whole life and says the reported settlement “ain’t worth nothing. Money don’t equal health, it don’t. You could be rich and die. It ain’t the same. It’s almost like we got PTSD with the water because we don’t really drink it comfortably, like, you know what I’m saying? People actually lost their lives to it.”
He’s also a coronavirus survivor and says he and his neighbors are struggling to deal with both issues at the same time.
“Now you got people who are taking extra money out of their pockets and just going to the grocery store and just buying up the water at the grocery store,” Davis said. “But you add on the pandemic — now the water’s not even there to even grab.”
The water crisis started in 2014 when, as a cost-cutting measure, officials switched the city’s water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River. But the water was improperly treated, enabling lead and other chemicals from the pipes to leach into the water supply.
The city switched back to its original water source in 2015.
CBS News was on the ground in Flint for months at the height of the water crisis. We heard firsthand from parents how they believed the tainted water affected their children.
“My heart breaks because the fact of the matter is I handed them the glasses of water,” one parent said. “When I heard my son get up at night and cry because his bones hurt, and there’s nothing I can give him, there’s nothing I can do for him to take away his pain. I feel completely helpless.”
Although tens of thousands of plaintiffs are said to be set to receive a payout as part of the settlement, much of the money is expected to go toward the children affected by the water crisis.
Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley says he hopes the settlement provides some sense of victory for the families.
“It allows Flint residents to move forward in a positive way, getting out of the mindset of being victims, but more as victors,” Neeley said. “And that’s where we need to move as a community.”
The office of Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel did not confirm any details of the agreement, saying, “We and the other parties are bound by a federal court order to maintain the confidentiality of detailed settlement and mediation communications until we reach a certain point.”
A $600 million payout is being reported, but for context, if you divide that by Flint’s residents, most of whom are eligible for payment, that’s roughly $6,000 per person.
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