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by Sharisse Thompson

FLINT — Flint residents are learning more about a water settlement to get safe drinking water back to Flint.

The settlement is one of the first key steps in resolving the city's water emergency.

Water activist Melissa Mays is one of the plaintiffs involved in a lawsuit against the state and the city along with the ACLU and the National Resources Defense Council.

Earlier this week, a federal judge signed off on a settlement ordering the state of Michigan to spend $97 million to replace all the lead service lines in Flint. 18,000 lead service lines will come out of the ground over the next three years.

The settlement is also the first court-ordered agreement backed by a federal judge holding the state accountable for the water crisis.

"We can have agreements all day long, but we have the federal court behind us to make sure everyone is doing what they're suppose to," says water activist Melissa Mays.

Flint residents gathered at New Jerusalem Baptist Church to learn more about the settlement on Thursday.

"To get this type of commitment to get the lead service lines out of the ground on this schedule over three years is completely unprecedented," says Dimple Chaudhary of the National Resources Defense Council.

Part of the agreement requires the state to replace lead service lines even if residents have fallen behind on their water payments. Michigan will continue to provide water filters, and there will be no cost for replacement cartridges or household testing kits over the next four years.

Flint's water supply was tainted with lead after the city got off Detroit water and tapped into the Flint River as its water source while a new pipeline was being built to Lake Huron. But failure to treat the river water with anti-corrosion chemicals caused lead to leach from old pipes into the city's drinking supply.

The settlement is a victory for Flint residents who have been living with the water emergency for three years now.

Eileen Hayes says she won't be satisfied until she can use her water without a filter.

"There's been a lot of trust that's been broken so it's going to take awhile before my trust is totally restored."

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