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Flint city council approves using insurance money for water crisis settlement

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

The Flint city council has signed off on joining a $641 million settlementof water crisis lawsuits.

The council voted just after midnight after a marathon session Monday night to tap $20 million in insurance funds to pay the city’s share of the settlement.

The council voted for the resolution, despite concerns about how the settlement will distribute the funds to Flint residents who suffered health problems and other issues during and after theill-conceived switchof the city’s drinking water source to the Flint River in 2014.

The river water was not properly treated with corrosion control, causing lead to leach from pipes into the city’s drinking water. The water source was switched back to Detroit’s water system in 2015, but by then the damage was done.

The Flint city council voted six to one (with two abstentions) to approve the resolution.

Council member Monica Galloway did not support the resolution. She believes the city shouldn’t be a defendant in water crisis lawsuits, but a plaintiff.

“We had no control over emergency managers,” Galloway said during the meeting. “And yet we sit as a community defending the very emergency managers that we were imposed upon us.”

But a majority of Flint city council members saw the settlement as a more acceptable alternative than potentially more expensive civil litigation.

Council member Santino Guerra says, “this why you have insurance.”

“This is the best decision for the city as a defendant definitely to take,” says Guerra.

The city of Flint joins the state of Michigan, McLaren-Flint Hospital and a local engineering firm in the master settlement. Lawsuits are also targeting several large banks, two prominent engineering firms and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Those lawsuits are not covered by the master settlement.

A federal judge may give the master settlement pre-approval next month. A final decision on the Flint water crisis master settlement is likely months away. 

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.