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Time is running out for people to claim a share of the Flint water crisis settlement

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Thursday is the deadline for tens of thousands of people to submit claims for a share of the $626 million Flint water crisis settlement.

More than 50,000 people applied to be part of the settlement earlier this year. But plaintiffs’ attorney Channing Robinson-Holmes said only a little more than 20,000 have submitted official claims

She expects lines outside her office in Flint this week.

“We’re preparing to have a lot of people come in,” said Robinson-Holmes, “We have our whole team that will be ready and willing to help and we’re hoping that, like I said, that the class really shows up to get their forms in.”

From April 2014 through October 2015, the city of Flint received its drinking water from the Flint River, as it waited to be linked to a new water pipeline from Lake Huron. But the river water was not properly treated, releasing lead and other contaminants into Flint’s drinking water.

The decision to switch Flint’s drinking water source was made by an emergency manager appointed by Michigan’s governor as a way to save money and eliminate the city government’s budget deficit.

The result was a massive public health crisis.

The state of Michigan, the city of Flint and two local businesses agreed to create the pool of settlement money to pay for claims against them tied to Flint’s lead tainted drinking water.

Nearly 80% of the money is earmarked for those who were children during the water crisis, with most of that share going to very young children who face potentially the most serious long-term health problems.

The rest of the money will be divided among adults and those who suffered property damage due to the water crisis.

The settlement doesn’t settle all outstanding lawsuits tied to the Flint water crisis. Some plaintiffs opted out of the settlement to focus on their individual lawsuits against the state of Michigan, the city of Flint, McLaren Flint Hospital and Rowe Professional Services.

There are also lawsuits pending against the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Two engineering firms — Veolia North America and Lockwood, Andrews and Newnam — brought in as consultants on Flint’s water system are also facing lawsuits. A jury in Ann Arbor is currently hearing a case against the firms. It’s referred to as a bellwether case, since it may serve as a guide for future lawsuits.

Back in May, U.S. District Court Judge Judith Levy granted an extension to give people more time to submit their paperwork in the settlement claims process. She is not expected to grant a second extension.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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