Flint to shut off water to 31 residents behind on bills

A suit against the state of MI brought by Flint resident Melissa Mays and three nonprofit groups was settled yesterday for $97 million to be spent, among other things, on new water service lines to replace those that have been leaching lead into the city's water.

Under the settlement, the lead drinking water pipes in Flint must be replaced with galvanized steel pipes at no cost to residents within the next three years. The cost could be as high as $97 million, with federal and state governments covering the bill. Pipes at more than 700 homes have been replaced so far.

The settlement marks the end of a lawsuit filed previous year by Concerned Pastors for Social Action, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the American Civil Liberties Union and a resident of Flint, targeted at both city and state officials.

"This settlement continues the state's commitment to providing the resources necessary for the residents of Flint to recover from the crisis, including health care services, nutritional food and replacement of lead service lines throughout the city", Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said via a news release.

MI will also continue to provide funding for seven medical programs that were set up to monitor and treat effects from lead exposure.

"While this does not fix everything, it's a good start", Mays said, stressing the immediate priority will be to get the lead pipes out of the ground.

Edwards told The Associated Press that with improved water quality, temporary use of filters and new pipes, "Flint residents really have nothing to worry about other than the lost trust and history of this disaster, which may take a generation to fix".

Not all of the money will come out of the state's coffers, however.

"By law, the city of Flint is required to collect payment from customers receiving water and sewer services", David Sabuda, the city's interim Chief Financial Officer, said in a statement.

"The people of Flint are owed at least this much", said Dimple Chaudhary, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and lead counsel in the case Concerned Pastors for Social Action v. Khouri. More details are available in this Detroit Free Press report.

Marc Edwards, an expert at Virginia Tech who in 2015 warned about unsafe lead levels after Gov. Rick Snyder's administration repeatedly dismissed the concerns, said the agreement is a good deal for residents.

"The state will continue striving to work on many priorities to ensure the city of Flint has a positive future, including economic development, job placement and riverfront revitalization", he said.

"They keep telling me the water is safe to use (with filters) ... but to me, if you still have to use filters, then the water isn't safe", she said.

  • Archie Newman