The State of Michigan has agreed to pay $87 million to enable the City of Flint to replace water lines over the next three years for up to 18,000 households dealing with the city’s lead contamination crisis, according to a proposed settlement agreement filed in Michigan federal court. The proposed settlement resolves a lawsuit brought last January by the Natural Resources Defense Council, American Civil Liberties Union and Concerned Pastors for Social Action against state and local officials over the town’s lead-tainted water and violations the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.
A hearing to approve the settlement is scheduled before U.S. District Judge David Lawson. In a lengthy stipulation, the parties agreed they “consider this agreement to be a fair reasonable, and equitable resolution of all claims in this case.” The settlement requires the state to replace lead and galvanized steel water service lines in the City of Flint with copper water service lines. The settlement covers the cost of conducting excavations to identify the material of the water line at a minimum of 18,000 households served by the Flint Water System. If all or part of the service line from main line to household meter is determined to be lead or galvanized steel, officials must replace that portion of the service line with a copper service line at no cost to the resident or property owner. The replacements are set to take place over the next three years, so that by Jan. 1, 2010, replacement lines will be completed for a minimum of 18,000 total households.
Residents in those households where a service line has been replaced will be advised to use filtered water for at least six months following a service line replacement. Under the proposed deal, officials are required to monitor the tap water distributed through the Flint water system for lead during consecutive six-month periods. Flint came under national scrutiny for how local and state leaders responded to the fact that residents’ tap water was polluted with lead and other contaminants. The January 2016 lawsuit alleged that officials failed to test drinking water for harmful contaminants and treat the water to control for those contaminants.
It was alleged in the complaint that a Michigan state-appointed emergency manager decided to switch Flint’s drinking water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River, regarded as a “dumping ground” for nearby industries, as a cost-cutting measure, according to the suit. When run through the city’s aging metallic pipes, this “corrosive” water ate away at the pipes, causing lead to leach into the residents’ drinking water, according to the complaint.
The settlement comes about two months after Michigan state officials asked the Sixth Circuit to overturn Judge Lawson’s order for Flint and state officials to deliver bottled water to residents whose tap water is undrinkable. Officials said the judge abused his discretion by ordering the weekly delivery of bottled water to every Flint resident. They argued that under the injunction, they would need to deliver approximately 395,000 cases of water per week to meet the court’s requirement, five times more than were being delivered before the order.
Under the proposed settlement, the state must continue to operate at least nine sites of distribution for bottled water but can discontinue those services by May 1, 2017, if certain conditions are met. Residents can request delivery of bottled water with a 24-hour turnaround through a Michigan state helpline. Under the proposal, the Plaintiffs will receive $895,000 in fees and costs.
The state officials are represented by Michigan Solicitor General Aaron Lindstrom, and Assistant Attorneys General Richard S. Kuhl, Nathan A. Gambill, Michael F. Murphy and Joshua O. Booth. The Plaintiffs are represented by Dimple Chaudhary, Jared E. Knicley, Sarah C. Tallman and Michael E. Wall of the Natural Resources Defense Council; Michael J. Steinberg of the American Civil Liberties Union Fund of Michigan; and Glenn M. Simmington of the Law Office of Glenn M. Simmington.
The case is Concerned Pastors for Social Action et al. v. Nick A. Khouri et al. (case number 2:16-cv-10277) in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.
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