Chicago Announces Plan to Replace Lead Pipes, Michigan to Pay $600M To Flint Victims

The New York Times late last night broke the story that the State of Michigan has agreed to pay close to $600 million to victims of the Flint water crisis, in a settlement that will be announced later this week.  According to the Times, that spoke to two unnamed sources, tens of thousands of Flint residents, especially children, will be eligible for compensation under the settlement once it is approved by a federal judge in Michigan.  And after community and environmental justice activists filed a suit against the City of Chicago for environmental racismNPR in Chicago reports that the city’s water commissioner announced yesterday that the city will imminently release a plan will to remove and replace all of Chicago’s lead water lines.

Why This Matters:  A recent report entitled “The Toxic Truth: Children’s Exposure to Lead Pollution Undermines a Generation of Future Potential,” states that hundreds of millions of children are suffering from lead poisoning and the vast majority live in poor communities in wealthy countries like ours.  Children with elevated levels of lead in their blood are more likely to have learning disabilities and increased behavioral difficulties — it causes irreversible damage to children’s development, according to the report.  Lead is unsafe at any level. It’s time to get the lead out of our environment.

Chicago’s Lead Pipes

As the activists’ lawsuit argues, for years city officials claimed that the estimated 400,000 lead service lines connecting homes to the water main were not a serious problem, according to NPR.  But the activists persisted fighting city hall, citing evidence of high levels of lead in the water of some homes and inadequate testing procedures to track lead in Chicago water.  This fix is not cheap.  NRP stated that the “estimated costs for lead service line replacement average around $6,000 per house and because of the dense infrastructure of Chicago the replacement of these pipes might cost as much as $8 and $10 billion to complete.  Chicago’s water commissioner Randy Conner told NPR, “We are quite sure we will be able to put a program together that will be satisfactory to the citizens of Chicago because, as always, our big concern is water quality and safety of the water program.”

Flint’s  Settlement

The details are not yet available, but according to The Times, it is likely that the individual amounts victims will receive will depend on an individual resident’s degree of suffering and damage from drinking the water.  The City of Flint has been replacing its lead pipes but some of the repairs are still not completed. The pipe replacement project was also the result of litigation — an $87 million settlement with the state of Michigan, that originally promised that the replacement work would be completed by January 2020.   Former Michigan Senator Carl Levin of Michigan was a mediator in the case and helped to achieve the settlement.  Residents who lived in Flint between 2014 and 2016 may be eligible for compensation.

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