“Pursue All Ways” To Obtain Justice In Flint’s Water Crisis
Over seven years ago, the water crisis in Flint began when state officials changed Flint’s water source to save money, without worrying about people’s health. These same officials also failed to properly treat the city’s water, leading to dangerously high levels of lead leaching into homes of 100,000 residents.
This erroneous and tragic decision to change the source of Flint’s consumption is one of the greatest environmental injustices of our lives. Lead is a potent neurotoxin that causes permanent damage, especially in young children under the age of six with developing brains, which can lead to developmental delays and behavioral problems.
Justice for the Flint Families comes in many forms. One form of justice is to hold those responsible for what they have done to Flint. Another is to replace every lead service line in our water systems. In Flint, this work continues. In 2016, I worked with President Barack Obama and the US Congress to provide $ 170 million to help Flint remove and replace lead pipes. Today almost all lead pipes have been removed in Flint. Now, as part of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, I am working with President Joe Biden to remove 100% of America’s lead pipes.
I have also worked in Congress to ensure that Flint families have access to care to mitigate the impact of lead on their health through the Flint Registry. This health infrastructure plays a vital role in Flint’s recovery and has already referred thousands of people to health care, nutrition, early childhood education programs like Head Start, and other resources. Congress created the Flint Registry in 2016 and I was able to get $ 4.5 million this year for its continued operation.
Justice also comes for the Flint families by compensating the victims of the water crisis. As I have said time and time again, the Flint water crisis has been a failure of government at all levels. While there is never any amount of money that adequately acknowledges the harm done to the Flint families, a class action settlement is an acknowledgment of the massive failures during this crisis.
Currently, there is a preliminary settlement agreement with the state of Michigan, the City of Flint, and other entities responsible for the water crisis in Flint. I have heard from many residents of Flint that this settlement has unresolved issues. Any settlement must be agreed upon by all parties.
I have also heard from community members and medical experts about the safety and availability of the bone scan technology used to document the exposure of Flint residents to lead. The scans could help people with claims earn higher claims from the settlement fund. The scanner’s maker said portable x-ray scanners were designed for animals, not for use on humans. This concerns me deeply.
Additionally, the proposed attorney fees would use up almost a third of the entire settlement. It is important that the victims are the first beneficiaries of the settlements, as they have endured a seven-year water crisis. Current demand does not seem to strike this balance.
Finally, other defendants, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have so far refused to lift sovereign immunity and settle cases between them. The Flint water crisis was a failure of government at all levels, including the federal government. I worked to facilitate conversations between plaintiffs and the federal government on the class action lawsuit. The EPA was a central part of the water crisis, and they should do whatever they can to bring justice to the victims. I hope that all parties can find an agreement on a settlement.
Indeed, no amount of money may fully recognize the damage the people of Flint have suffered, including their anxiety, fear, mistrust and anger at the events of the past seven years. But we must explore all avenues available to bring justice to Flint’s families.
Dan Kildee represents Michigan’s 5th District in the United States House of Representatives.