Michigan legislators on Wednesday finalized a plan to borrow $600 million to finance the state’s proposed settlement with the residents of Flint, whose water was contaminated with elevated levels of the neurotoxin lead.
The legislation received House approval on 105-3 and 104-4 votes and will be signed by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. It would authorize a loan from a state economic development fund, costing more than $1 billion to repay over 30 years — $35 million annually. The legal settlement is believed to be the state government’s largest ever, pending approval from a federal judge.
Other defendants contributing to the $641 million deal include the city of Flint and McLaren Flint Hospital, which each will pay $20 million, and Rowe Professional Services Co., an environmental consulting company that will pay $1.25 million.
Flint switched its drinking water source in 2014 from Detroit’s system to the Flint River in a money-saving move while under supervision of a state manager following Republican then-Gov. Rick Snyder’s declaration of a financial emergency. City workers followed state environmental officials’ advice not to use anti-corrosive additives. Without those treatments, water from the river scraped lead from aging pipes and fixtures, contaminating tap water.
Elevated levels of lead were detected in children, and at least 12 people died in a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak that experts suspected was linked to the improperly treated water.
“Those who have suffered at the hands of their government deserve every measure of justice that can be afforded to them, and the settlement is one important piece of that equation,” one of the bill sponsors, Senate Democratic Leader Jim Ananich of Flint, said last week.