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Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) and other ex-officials accused of responsibility for the Flint water crisis will soon face charges, according to a January 12, 2021 Associated Press report. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Demonstrators demand action about the water crisis in Flint before the Republican presidential debate March 3, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

'Historic and Momentous Day' as Judge OKs $626 Million Flint Water Crisis Settlement

"Though we can never undo what has occurred, this settlement makes clear that those who egregiously violate the law and harm their communities will be held accountable."

Brett Wilkins

While stressing that no amount of money could fully compensate for the irreparably damaged health of thousands of Flint, Michigan residents who suffered lead poisoning due to cost-cutting measures by an unelected city manager, advocates hailed a federal judge's final approval on Wednesday of a $626 million settlement as a crucial step toward "justice served."

"None of this would have been possible without the tireless advocacy from residents, who never gave up the fight."

MLive reports U.S. District Judge Judith Levy filed an approval order for the settlement, under which Flint residents who were six years old or younger during the lead contamination crisis in the largely impoverished, predominantly Black city of 81,000 will be the biggest beneficiaries of the historic agreement.

"For those who have endured the damage done by the Flint water crisis, I know this day brings only partial relief to what remains unimaginable hardship, but I hope this important settlement can be acknowledged as a positive step in the healing process," Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, said in a statement following Levy's approval. "The people of Flint deserve accountability and to be compensated for any injuries they suffered."

Ted Leopold, a partner at the law firm of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll and co-lead class counsel in the case, said that "this is a historic and momentous day for the residents of Flint, who will finally begin to see justice served."

During the tenure of then-Gov. Rick Snyder—a Republican—an unelected emergency manager he appointed to govern the city made the cost-cutting decision in 2014 to switch its tap water source from Detroit's municipal supply to the Flint River, whose waters were highly corrosive and whose aging pipes leaked lead into thousands of homes. 

In addition to lead poisoning, a 2014-15 outbreak of Legionaires' disease caused by the water crisis officially killed 12 people, although an investigation found that the actual death toll may have been up to 10 times higher.

In January 2021, Snyder and eight other former state officials were criminally charged for their alleged roles in the crisis.

Speaking about the settlement and the people of Flint, Leopold said that "none of this would have been possible without the tireless advocacy from residents, who never gave up the fight."

"Though we can never undo what has occurred," the attorney added, "this settlement makes clear that those who egregiously violate the law and harm their communities will be held accountable."

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