Michigan attorney general announces $600 million settlement for victims of Flint water crisis

Michigan announces Flint settlement
Michigan announces Flint settlement 03:01

Michigan has agreed to a preliminary settlement paying $600 million to victims of the 2014 Flint water crisis, with the majority of the money going to settle claims filed on behalf of children. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced the agreement on Thursday and the state's governor said it was reached last week. 

People in Flint have protested for years over unsafe amounts of lead in their drinking water.

Although the state claims Flint's water quality has met federal standards for three years running, many residents don't trust the officials and don't trust the water. 

One Flint resident told CBS News this week that no amount of money will heal the suffering of those impacted by the city's health crisis — and the coronavirus pandemic has just made their situation worse. Craig Davis has lived in Flint his whole life and says the reported settlement "ain't worth nothing. Money don't equal health, it don't. You could be rich and die. It ain't the same."

"It's almost like we got PTSD with the water because we don't really drink it comfortably, like, you know what I'm saying? People actually lost their lives to it," Davis said.

He's also a coronavirus survivor and says he and his neighbors are struggling to deal with both issues at the same time.  

"Now you got people who are taking extra money out of their pockets and just going to the grocery store and just buying up the water at the grocery store," Davis said. "But you add on the pandemic — now the water's not even there to even grab."

The water crisis started in 2014 when, as a cost-cutting measure, officials switched the city's water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River. But the water was improperly treated, enabling lead and other chemicals from the pipes to leach into the water supply.

The city switched back to its original water source in 2015.

CBS News was on the ground in Flint for months at the height of the water crisis. We heard firsthand from parents how they believed the tainted water affected their children.

"My heart breaks because the fact of the matter is I handed them the glasses of water," one parent said. "When I heard my son get up at night and cry because his bones hurt, and there's nothing I can give him, there's nothing I can do for him to take away his pain. I feel completely helpless."

Tens of thousands of plaintiffs are said to be set to receive a payout as part of the settlement.

Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley says he hopes the settlement provides some sense of victory for the families.

"It allows Flint residents to move forward in a positive way, getting out of the mindset of being victims, but more as victors," Neeley said. "And that's where we need to move as a community."

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer released a statement on the settlement saying, in part, "We acknowledge that this settlement may not completely provide all that Flint needs, and that many will still feel justifiable frustration with a system and structure that at times is not adequate to fully address what has happened to people in Flint over the last six years. We hear and respect those voices and understand that healing Flint will take a long time, but our ongoing efforts and today's settlement announcement are important steps in helping all of us move forward."

Correction: This story has been updated to remove an incorrect estimate for the average amount of money each Flint resident would receive.