Last week, the state of Michigan reached a $600 million settlement with Flint residents over the city’s water crisis.
Under the agreement, 80% of the settlement money would go to Flint residents who were under the age of 18 years of age between April 25, 2014 and July 31, 2016. It’s a major development in the saga of a city that saw its water system poisoned under state control in an effort to save money. But it also doesn’t necessarily mean closure for Flint residents either.
“We’ve been on this long journey to get justice, I think this is an important step but we still haven’t crossed the finish line yet.” — State Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint).
Some residents feel that the $600 million is not enough to compensate them for the physical and emotional damage brought on by the water crisis, while others want justice through the prosecution of state officials and employees who made the decisions that led to the crisis.
Listen: Michigan awarded a $600 Million settlement to Flint residents, but some still demand justice
State Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) represents Michigan’s 27th State Senate District. He says that while the settlement is impactful for residents affected by the water crisis, it is not the end of the fight for justice for Flint residents.
“I think it’s symbolic and it’s actually real. And I think the symbolism is you think you were left behind, you think you were thrown away, and the settlement means you were validated,” he says. “We’ve been on this long journey to get justice, I think this is an important step, but we still haven’t crossed the finish line yet.”
Ananich says he is hopeful that a criminal trial for officials involved in the crisis will bring more justice to Flint residents. He says one of the lasting affects of the water crisis among Flint residents is distrust of elected officials.
“We’re continuing to build that trust in our own community, some people will never be completely whole, both physically or mentally,” he says.
Ananich says moving forward, he hopes to see Flint residents continue to work together to support one another and the community as a whole as they have throughout the water crisis.
“We can’t solve this whole thing and we can’t solve it all at once, but we can do things together,” he says.
Timothy Abdul-Matin is a Flint resident and co-founder and outreach director for the nonprofit M.A.D.E (Money, Attitude, Direction and Education) Institute that works with incarcerated citizens and those transitioning from incarceration. He says he thinks the $600 settlement does not make up for the toll the water crisis had on the people of Flint.
“I don’t think it’s enough for Flint residents for what they endured, so I’m surprised with the amount and what it entails,” Abdul-Matin says.
He also says that many Flint residents do not trust public officials, and he says he hopes to see them held accountable in the future for their involvement in the water crisis.
“The water crisis just shined a light on everything else we was going through. People started paying attention.” — Timothy Abdul-Matin, M.A.D.E Institute.
“It’s just so many emotions Flint residents have been living with, and one of the main things is not being able to trust those in the leadership positions,” Abdul-Matin says. “I feel bad for my people, it’s not enough when the people who caused this disaster have gotten away scot-free.”
Abdul-Matin says he believes the public health emergency in Flint brought to light other social disparities in the city, like the school-to-prison pipeline and it’s effects on Flint residents of color.
“Nobody invested in us, in our strengths. The backdoor to school is the front door to prison,” he says. “I think the water crisis just shined a light on everything else we was going through. People started paying attention, money started coming in, people really started looking at our infrastructure and our institutions.”
Julie Hurwitz is an attorney representing Flint residents in the case. She says the settlement has helped to provide accountability for the mismanagement that led to the crisis.
“The compensation scheme is going to be based on the harm that individual people suffered.’ — Julia Hurwitz, attorney
“I don’t disagree that $600 million is not enough to compensate this community for all that has happened to them. At the same time, it is a tremendous victory in getting the state to acknowledge the harm it has caused,” she says.
Hurwitz says that the settlement money will not be equally dispersed to all residents of Flint, but instead will be dispersed based on the severity of harm done to an individual.
“We do not expect every person in Flint to be filing a claim, that’s just not the way it’s going to work, the compensation scheme is going to be based on the harm that individual people suffered,” she says.
Hurwitz says there may be more lawsuits in the future brought up against individuals and other agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency.
“We have a claim that we are continually trying to pursue against the Environmental Protection Agency, The EPA had a legal obligation to intervene and they simply did not do it.”
This article was written by Detroit Today student producer Ali Audet.