Flint Water Crisis: $626 Million Settlement Approved for Thousands of Kids Exposed to Lead Poisoning

Photo: (Photo : Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

Nearly two years since the conclusion of the Flint water crisis trial, a federal judge has approved a settlement of $626 million, which will mostly go to the thousands of children exposed to lead poisoning.

U.S. District Judge Judith Levy said in her 178-page decision that this case has been a "remarkable achievement" as it will set forth a proper compensation program for anyone who suffered health consequences from drinking tainted water. The compensation will come from the state for overlooking the dangers of drawing drinking water from the Flint River in Michigan without conducting water treatments.

Read Also: Sodium Nitrate Poisoning Ruled as Cause of Death for Former Child Actor Matthew Mindler

Collecting the Flint Water Crisis Payout

In 2014, the source of Flint's problems started when the water supply was shifted from Lake Huron to the river to cut down the cost to $5 million. However, polluted water flowed through the river with lead leaching from the pipes. Soon, residents suffered a Legionnaires' disease outbreak that afflicted more than 100,000 African-American families.

The outcome prompted parents to sue the state after tests showed that their kids acquired high blood levels of lead poisoning. Experts warned that lead could bring about developmental disorders and other illnesses.

The $626 million payouts will follow a formula that will route most of the money to the children. The state will announce the application process in due time. Over 81,000 residents have signed an agreement on behalf of the kids and at least 4,000 children are expected to benefit from the payout. Mom Melissa Mays, whose three children have exhibited medical problems and learning disabilities as a result of lead poisoning, said that she plans on using the money for her children's medical care and tutors.

Nine state officials were then accused of committing crimes against the residents, including involuntary manslaughter. Gov. Rick Snyder, on the other hand, was charged with neglect of duty in January 2021, more than a year after his term ended. He had his pre-trial hearing in June and has entered a not guilty plea. 

State to Pay $300,000 to Wrongfully Fired Employee

The massive payout comes as Michigan agreed to pay Liane Shekter Smith the amount of $300,000 for her wrongful discharge. She was the only employee who lost her job because of the Flint water crisis.

Shekter Smith was the head of Michigan's drinking water division during the worst environmental crisis in the U.S. Some believed that she was made the "public scapegoat" to cover for the shortcomings of other officials.

Under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's order, Hugh McDiarmid Jr. of the state's Department of Environment said that Shekter Smith will get 56 percent more than what was originally decided. However, according to ABC News, the compensation still falls short of what the former director was asking for her lost compensation, which amounted to $900,000.

Meanwhile, Whitmer said that "no amount of money" could compensate for the health issues that Flint residents have endured and will continue to suffer. However, she also hopes that the settlement will help with the healing of the community as a whole.

Related Article: Half of Kids Under 6 Exposed to Lead Poisoning, New Study Says

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