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Flint contractor agrees to settlement of lead contamination lawsuits

Flint River
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Flint residents sued one engineering firm involved in the lead-contamination crisis, after drawing city water from the Flint River. The company agree to settlement.

An engineering company accused of being partially responsible for Flint's lead-contaminated water in 2014-15 has agreed to settle lawsuits brought by residents of the Michigan city, attorneys said Thursday.

Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam, an engineering firm known as LAN, said in a court filing that a confidential deal was reached with residents in federal court but that both sides need more time to iron out the details.

Separately, LAN reached a deal in a different lawsuit that Michigan's attorney general filed in state court.

Flint families sued LAN and another contractor, Veolia North America, accusing them of not doing enough to get Flint to treat highly corrosive water or to urge a return to a regional water supplier.

Flint, which was under state-appointed managers, used the Flint River for water in 2014-15, but the water wasn't treated the same as water previously supplied by a Detroit-area provider. As a result, lead leached throughout the vast pipe system.

LAN has repeatedly defended its work while under contract with Flint and denied responsibility, though it settled a lawsuit with four families in December, months after a jury couldn't reach a verdict.

LAN said it couldn't disclose terms of the new deal but was pleased to reach an agreement.

“We believe this will finally bring closure for the state, plaintiffs and LAN,” attorney Wayne Mason said. “LAN maintains it was never responsible for any of the issues related to the Flint matter, and further litigation would not be productive for any party.”

An attorney for Flint residents, Corey Stern, said he, too, couldn't comment on what LAN has agreed to pay. He said the goal is to weave it into a larger, separate $626 million settlement between families and the state of Michigan.

“So people can be paid once and this can be administered at the same time,” Stern said.

The state was sued because environmental regulators and other officials missed opportunities to fix Flint's water problems during the lead crisis. Flint returned to a regional water supplier in fall 2015.

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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