© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The Flint Water Plant tower in Flint, Michigan
(Reuters) – A federal judge in Michigan on Thursday gave preliminary approval to a $641 million partial settlement of lawsuits filed by victims of the Flint water crisis against the state, according to a court document.
U.S. District Judge Judith Levy wrote in the 72-page opinion that the preliminary agreement “does not resolve all of the Flint water cases” and that victims are fully able to pursue their own lawsuits and register objections to the settlement.
The Flint water crisis was one of the country’s worst public health crises in recent memory. The case became emblematic of racial inequality in the Unites States as it afflicted a city of about 100,000 people, more than half of whom are African-American.
Flint’s troubles began in 2014 after the city switched its water supply to the Flint River from Lake Huron to cut costs. Corrosive river water caused lead to leach from pipes, contaminating the drinking water and causing an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease.
Former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, a Republican, was charged last week with two counts of willful neglect in relation to the crisis. Snyder has indicated he plans to fight the charges.
Levy wrote in Thursday’s court opinion that she knows many victims are not happy with various aspects of the settlement. She acknowledged that “there may be no amount of money that would fully recognize the harm the residents of Flint have experienced.”
Levy said victims have until the end of March to register to participate in the settlement.
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