Michigan will spend $87 million to replace thousands of aging water pipes in Flint to settle a federal lawsuit over lead-contaminated drinking water, promising to bring an end to a water crisis that made the city a national symbol of crumbling infrastructure.
A federal judge on Tuesday approved the deal, in which the state agreed to replace 18,000 lead or galvanized-steel water lines over the next three years using state and federal funds. Officials will keep an additional $10 million available in reserves to spend if needed.
“We knew all along that the only way we were going to be safe again was if the pipes were ripped out of the ground,” said Melissa Mays, a Flint resident who was a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “So this, today, was a huge win.”
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said in a statement that the settlement “continues the state’s commitment to providing the resources necessary for the residents of Flint to recover from the crisis.”
He added, “The state will continue striving to work on many priorities to ensure the city of Flint has a positive future, including economic development, job placement and riverfront revitalization.”
The saga stretches back to April 2014, when in an effort to save money, the struggling Rust Belt city stopped piping expensive drinking water from Detroit and instead drew water from the Flint River until a new pipeline could funnel less expensive water from Lake Huron.
State financial and environmental officials signed off on the proposal, which the state treasurer said would bring “desperately needed” savings.
When they made the switch, Mays said, city and state officials assured residents they’d be safe. But four months later, bizarre things started happening.
Her hair started falling out. Rashes broke out on the skin of her three sons. Her youngest got pneumonia. Her whole family was having trouble breathing.
In some homes, the…