A judge granted preliminary approval Thursday to a $641 million deal that would benefit Flint residents who were harmed by lead-contaminated water.
The settlement includes $600 million from the state of Michigan, although Flint, an area hospital and an engineering firm are also part of the agreement. U.S. District Judge Judith Levy signed off in a 72-page opinion.
“There may be no amount of money that would fully recognize the harm the residents of Flint have experienced, including their anxiety, fear, distrust and anger over the events of the last seven years,” Levy said. “Litigation has its benefits but also its limitations, and the preliminary approval of this settlement does not affect or preclude other avenues of redress.”
Preliminary approval triggers a monthslong process during which Flint residents can object and pursue their own claims, Levy said.
Regulators in then-Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration allowed Flint to use the Flint River in 2014-15 without treating the water to reduce corrosion. As a result, lead in old pipes broke off and flowed through taps.
“Authorization of these programs is very recent, and I urge anyone who is interested in registering to carefully read and understand the terms and conditions related to the promotional packages being offered so that you are not confused about what might be expected,” said Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. “In some instances, site users may be required to spend or deposit a certain amount of money into an account before receiving their free play credits, and users should make themselves aware of such conditions so they are not taken off guard.”
Separately, experts have blamed the Flint River water for an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, which led to at least 12 deaths in the Flint area.
Snyder last week was charged with two misdemeanor counts of willful neglect of duty in Flint. Eight other people were also charged, including two health department officials who are blamed for the deaths of nine people with Legionnaires'.