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Flint mayor: $600M water crisis settlement is 'the floor, not the ceiling'

Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley believes the $600 million to be awarded to Flint residents as part of a class action lawsuit against state and local governments is “the floor, not the ceiling” when it comes to compensation for those impacted.

“The $600 million is the floor, not the ceiling,” Neeley told Yahoo Finance (video above). “We still have probably another 12 defendants in the case. So that number is going to go up. And so we're not at the final total of the dollar amount that's going to be furnished to the residents of the city of Flint.”

Sheldon Neeley. (Yahoo Finance)
Sheldon Neeley. (Yahoo Finance)

The water pollution crisis began in 2014 after officials, looking to save money, switched the city’s water source to the Flint river. The water was never properly treated, causing chemicals from the pipes to seep into the water delivered straight to residents’ homes and buildings.

In early 2016, officials declared a state of emergency in the city of roughly 100,000 — more than half of whom are Black — and wider Genesee County.

In 2017, criminal charges were filed against many government officials. (The charges were dropped in 2019, though the Michigan attorney general’s office said it had plans to keep investigating.)

Many people in the city continue to rely on bottled water, and the elevated levels of lead in some children’s blood caused many to worry about the long term complications such as potential irreversible damage to their developing brains.

FLINT, MICHIGAN - DECEMBER 20: Workers load bottled water into vehicles waiting in line at a water distribution site at Greater Holy Temple in Flint, Mich., on Thursday, December 20, 2018. (Photo by Brittany Greeson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Workers load bottled water into vehicles waiting in line at a water distribution site at Greater Holy Temple in Flint, Mich., on Thursday, December 20, 2018. (Photo by Brittany Greeson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Neeley stressed that restoring trust with the community “is not going to be a fix that can happen overnight. We have to restore that with a level of faith and commitment and actually a show of good works. A lot of the replacement of our lead lines in the city of Flint has yet to be remediated.”

Roughly 90% of the city’s pipes have been replaced, according to the mayor, and “we will start to restore trust” when the project is completed.

After fixing the pipes, the mayor said, the city will work to address crime, poverty, and racism.

“We're at the intersection of crisis in this community —and also in this country — when we have communities of color in low-to-moderate income areas that have been ravaged with crime and now we have a pandemic,” Neeley said. “We have a level of high disparities in health care, education, economic growth, and justice.”

Given the circumstances, the mayor added, Flint is “going to be the lighthouse of hope for the rest of the nation because we're going to come out of this on the other side with a positive and strong spirit.”

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