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Judge approves $626 million settlement in Flint water crisis

The judge called the settlement with the state of Michigan and others a “remarkable achievement.”
The Flint Water Plant tower stands in Flint, Mich., on April 13, 2020.
The Flint Water Plant tower on April 13, 2020.Emily Elconin / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

A federal judge approved a $626 million settlement Wednesday with tens of thousands of people in Flint, Michigan, who sued the state and others after their drinking water was tainted by lead.

In a 178-page decision, U.S. District Judge Judith Levy said the settlement was a “remarkable achievement” because it creates a compensation program for everyone hurt by the tainted water, regardless of whether they were part of a class-action lawsuit or sued the state on their own.

A lawyer representing 4,000 children from the Flint area, Corey Stern, said in a statement that the agreement wouldn't have been possible "without the children and families of Flint relentlessly taking a stand against those who failed to keep them safe."

"Flint families are finally going to get some justice," he said.

The state agreed to the settlement last year, after Michigan officials spent nearly two years negotiating with lawyers representing the residents of Flint.

The city of Flint, a hospital and an engineering firm were also named as defendants and will pay a combined $26 million of the settlement. The state will pay the rest, according to the terms of the agreement.

About 80 percent of the money will be set aside for minors. Lead exposure in children can cause learning disabilities, behavioral issues and other problems.

People will be eligible for compensation if elevated lead levels were found in their blood or bones, for instance, or if they suffer from cognitive problems that can be traced to the lead, according to the decision.

Flint, a poor, majority-Black city, struggled for years to find clean drinking water after the city switched its water system in 2014 to save $5 million.

Nine former state officials were accused of dozens of crimes, from misconduct in office to involuntary manslaughter. Former Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican whose term ended in 2019, was charged in January with two counts of willful neglect of office, a misdemeanor.

Snyder pleaded not guilty. His attorney said the charges were "flimsy."