Flint, MI — On April 25, 2023, community members and activists gathered at the People’s Church in Flint. There were refreshments and music, but the event was not a celebration. It was a time to remember the last nine years since the water crisis began.
Just a month earlier on March 30, 2023, Special Master Deborah Greenspan announced another delay in the settlement claims process. However, she also wrote that residents should expect to see progress in their claims this year.
Flint resident Audrey Muhammad is among those who have lived in Flint since the water crisis began in 2014, and said she hasn’t had clean water in her home since.
She called the claims process unfair. Her sister filed a claim, she told Flint Beat, but her sister has since died.
“We don’t know where to go to find out where she placed her claim,” Muhammad said. “Every citizen that lived in the City of Flint, whether they signed the paper, turned in a paper, anything, deserve to have something because they suffered.”
Muhammad said she also applied for the settlement claim last year, and it was confusing.
“You had to go through all of those different hoops, you know, so it made it a little hard to get some things taken care of and done,” she said.
Even when the claim goes through though, she said it’s still not enough.
“We asked from the very beginning to get whole house filtration systems for every home. There was enough funding coming in here,” she said. “Unfortunately, we had nonprofits take our money.”
Muhammad had a household water filtration system installed in 2016. The filters in the system were supposed to last a year, but when she went to check on them after a few months she said, the filter was brown with copper, dirt and soot.
“I have a reverse osmosis at my sink and I still use bottled water, I don’t drink anything but bottled water,” she said.
She didn’t have her service lines replaced, but she said people from the city told her that wasn’t necessary for her home.
Even though her water is supposed to be clean, she said she still doesn’t trust it. She said she’s concerned about pharmaceuticals and fluoride in the water. Once it’s time for her filters to be changed, she said she notices a difference in the way her skin reacts to the water at her house.
While her $500 home filtration system was donated to her by a mosque in Detroit, she otherwise pays hundreds a year to continue to drink bottled water.
She had to pay for her reverse osmosis treatment in her home, and she also pays $150 a year to change her filters. On top of this, she pays her regular water bill, which she estimates is about $97 a month.
The claims process
The groups paying in the settlement are the State of Michigan, the City of Flint, McLaren Hospital and Rowe Engineering.
The State of Michigan is paying $600 million in the settlement, $20 million is coming from the City of Flint, $5 million is coming from McLaren and just over $1 million is coming from Rowe Engineering.
According to court documents, there are approximately 45,000 claimants, with more than 55,000 separate claims. Along with the claims, there were about 3 million supporting documents submitted.
Per Greenspan’s announcement, within the next few months, the claims administrator will be issuing notices to claimants regarding their claim’s approval or if they qualify for a different compensation category.
The notices will be sent out in waves, so different claimants will receive their notices at different times. According to court documents, the notices are expected to begin going out at the beginning of May, barring any other appeals filed in the court.
However, the claims process is continually being delayed because of appeals and petitions being filed, which halts the process. Then, after a decision is made on an appeal or decision, there is sometimes a 90-day waiting period in case someone petitions the court’s decision.
There are also two engineering firms, Veolia Water North America Operating Services (VNA) and Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam Inc. (LAN), that consulted the City of Flint at the time of the water crisis. Their trial resulted in a mistrial last year, as well as many other cases filed against the EPA. There is not currently an expected end time for those cases.