A US court gave, Wednesday, November 10, final approval to pay more than $ 600 million to victims poisoned by lead contamination of the drinking water network in the city of Flint, one of the worst health scandals in the USA.
“The agreement reached here is a tremendous success for many reasons, one of which is that it establishes a consistent full compensation schedule and schedule for each eligible person.”Michigan court judge Judith Levy said in her ruling.
The agreement, which provides for compensation of $ 626 million to victims, to be paid in large part by the state of Michigan, was announced in August 2020, after tough negotiations that lasted eighteen months.
As the court document specifies, these funds are intended primarily for the children of this former industrial city, which has become a symbol of social injustice in the United States, but also for adults who can provide evidence of illnesses linked to their lead contamination.
The tragedy was caused by the decision of the governor (Republican at the time) of Michigan to change the city’s water supply source in 2014, as a measure of economy.
Acidic, polluted water from the local river, preferred over pure water from nearby Lake Huron, has eaten away at the distribution system’s pipes, exposing residents to lead poisoning. Some 18,000 to 20,000 children lived in Flint at the time of this dramatic pollution.
Many residents of Flint continue to drink bottled water today, even though the distribution system is again fed from the lake and the lead pipes have been mostly replaced.
The lead poisoning of thousands of Flint’s children threatens to have catastrophic health consequences for decades. At least 12 people have also died of Legionnaires’ disease, an infection caused by the initial contamination of the water.
For many, Flint’s poisoned water scandal illustrates a “Environmental racism” at work in the United States. This phrase refers to the disproportionate exposure of African Americans to pollutants in the air, water or soil.
Some 57% of Flint’s 100,000 residents are black and more than a third live below the poverty line.