The state of Michigan has agreed to pay $600 million to settle lawsuits stemming from the crisis that left Flint residents with contaminated drinking water.
The proposed deal announced Thursday requires approval from U.S. District Judge Judith Levy, who is overseeing lawsuits against the state.
In an April 2014 cost-cutting move, the state shifted the water source in Flint from the city of Detroit to the Flint River. Soon after, residents complained that the water flowing into their homes was discolored and tasted and smelled foul. They blamed it for rashes, hair loss and other conditions.
In 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency said it had found dangerous levels of lead in the water, which can affect the heart, kidneys, brain and nervous system. Children are especially vulnerable to its toxic effects.
“The residents of Flint were victims of horrendous decisions by the state, its employees, and other defendants that have resulted in tragic and devastating consequences," Ted Leopold, one of the attorneys appointed by Levy to lead the class-action lawsuit, said, according to the Detroit Free Press.
"While we can never undo the damage that occurred to the citizens and community of Flint, we are pleased that today we were able to secure a measure of justice for the ... Flint community,” Leopold added.
Under the preliminary settlement, Flint residents will be eligible for hundreds of millions of dollars in payments from a victim compensation fund, with 80% of that money going to those who were 18 or younger at the time of the crisis.
A fund also will be established to provide special education for students who suffer long-term health and behavioral impacts from lead poisoning. Flint businesses are also eligible for compensation under the agreement.
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