The State of Michigan settled a federal lawsuit this week that allows them to avoid having to make home deliveries of water to Flint residents without safe drinking water but compels them to spend $47 million in an attempt to do right by the beleaguered city:
The state will allocate $87 million for the City of Flint to identify and replace at least 18,000 unsafe water lines in Flint by 2020 under a proposed settlement of a federal lawsuit that also provides the state with a road map to end free distribution of bottled water later this year.
The proposed settlement also requires the state to pay $895,000 to the plaintiffs who brought the 2016 lawsuit, to cover their litigation costs.
Concerned Pastors for Social Justice, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Michigan ACLU and Flint resident Melissa Mays don’t get the door-to-door delivery of bottled water they had been seeking in recent months. But the plaintiffs get a schedule for water line replacements while the state gets a schedule for weaning Flint off the community resource stations where bottled water, water filters and filter replacement cartridges are now distributed free of charge. The centers could close as early as Sept. 1, subject to test results on Flint tap water.
The Detroit Free Press reports that, “the agreement calls for replacement of 6,000 lines by Jan. 1, 2018, and at least 6,000 more lines each of the two following years, with all lines covered by the agreement replaced by Jan. 1, 2020.
Based on this, many residents in Flint will still be using water filters for the next three years. However, the agreement codifies the State’s commitment to put things right.
Here are some of the details, from reporting by MLive:
The full settlement document includes:
- A requirement that the state allocates $87 million to pay for the replacement of lead and galvanized water service lines — at least $47 million of which must come from sources other than those approved by Congress and President Barack Obama last year.
- A requirement that the state set aside an additional $10 million in reserves from federal funds to pay the cost of service line replacements in the event that the work costs more than expected.
- A commitment from the state to monitor a sampling of homes before and after service line replacements and the appointment of a third party monitor to test a minimum of 100 homes for at least three years.
- Conditions under which the state is permitted to close up to three bottled water distribution sites after May 1. The closings can occur if the 90 percentile lead level of tap water remains under the federal action limit of 15 parts per billion and if the average number of daily bottled water pickups falls below certain levels.
- An agreement for the state to expand the Community Outreach and Resident Education program to provide additional education, installation and maintenance of water filters and replacement cartridges.
This is a step in the right direction. However, as we all know, had this happened in one of Michigan’s more affluent communities, they wouldn’t have to wait for three years to have their problem solved. This is the most blatant example of environmental injustice happening in the country right now and we need to make sure that it doesn’t go down the memory hole until the people of Flint have been made whole.
[PROGRAMMING NOTE: On April 9th, LOLGOP and I will be traveling to Flint for some interviews to be aired on our podcast on April 10th.]