Michigan will pay $600 million to compensate Flint residents whose health was damaged by lead-tainted drinking water after the city heeded state regulators’ advice not to treat it properly, an attorney involved in the negotiations told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Details will be released later this week, according to the attorney, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about it ahead of an official announcement. The settlement was first reported by The Detroit News, MLive.com and WXYZ-TV.
It is intended to resolve all legal actions against the state for its role in a disaster that made the impoverished, majority-Black city a nationwide symbol of governmental mismanagement, the attorney said.
The offices of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel have been negotiating for more than 18 months with lawyers for thousands of Flint residents who have filed suits against the state.
Ryan Jarvi, a spokesman for Nessel, declined to confirm the reports of a deal Wednesday night.
“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,” Jarvi said. “We have not yet reached the point where we can discuss a potential settlement.”
Flint switched its water source from the city of Detroit to the Flint River to save money in 2014, while under control of a state-appointed emergency manager. State environmental regulators advised Flint, located about about 70 miles (112.65 kilometers) north of Detroit, not to apply corrosion controls to the water, which was contaminated by lead from aging pipes.
Residents of the city with a population of nearly 100,000 people used bottled water quickly began complaining that the water was discolored and had a bad taste and smell. They blamed it for rashes, hair loss and other health concerns, but local and state officials insisted it was safe.