Seven Years — Open Letter to Elected Officials re: Flint Water Crisis Settlement

Apr 25, 2021 | BM4F Spotlights, Uncategorized, Young, Gifted & Green Blog Series | 0 comments

Flint residents and grassroots community leaders call on high-level elected officials to push for a fair water settlement and healthcare for all.

Dear President Biden, Vice-President Harris, Gov. Whitmer, Lt. Gov. Gilchrist II, Atty. Gen. Nessel, U.S. Rep. Kildee, U.S Sen. Stabenow, U.S. Sen. Peters, State Rep. Neeley, State Sen. Ananich, and Flint Mayor Neeley;

April 25th marks seven years since the State-appointed emergency manager switched the water source, poisoning over 100,000 people in Flint and sparking a national conversation on environmental racism and policy. Since 2014, we have made some progress, and yet, we know that there is still a long way to go to make all of Flint whole. Members of the local grassroots community, Flint residents, global supporters, along with each of you, our elected officials, helped to play a significant role in this recovery progress. As officials representing the Flint community at the highest levels, we are calling on you to do even more.

Specifically, we encourage you to elevate the concerns that the grassroots community has raised about this “historic settlement” since it was first announced in August 2020. While some of our elected officials have spoken positively about the “historic” nature of the settlement and emphasized how great it is that the majority goes to kids, high-level officials have neither spoken about the kids who will be left far behind their age-matched peers nor the majority adults who are left out of this partial settlement.

SETTLEMENT CONCERNS FOR CHILDREN

This settlement does not actually compensate kids who were most harmed by the water. Instead, it rewards the kids whose parents had the greatest access to documentation by allowing them to fall into the top three categories of compensation for their age group. The kids with the greatest access to documentation (categories 1–3) will receive at least 10x more money than kids who may be equally harmed but could not provide medical documentation (category 6.) Many children are unable to access any of the three primary types of claims documentation due to barriers below:

Neuropsychological Assessments: While the Neurodevelopmental Center of Excellence (NCE) has the potential to be an outstanding resource for Flint kids, this settlement unfairly uses it as a way to discriminate against kids who were harmed by the crisis but never assessed, or given “proof.” With over 2800 children being referred for further testing at the NCE, as of December 2020, only 28 children, less than 1%, were actually evaluated — the other 99% are left without assessment.

Blood lead levels: Parents were repeatedly assured that the water was safe to drink, and specifically that claims of lead in water were unfounded. Some parents did not know they needed to get their children’s blood lead tested during the time when their child’s body had peak lead levels. Flint was misled for 18 months while the half-life of lead in blood is under 2 months.

Bone lead scans: These tests have not been made widely available to Flint residents, despite the Judge’s order to expand access beyond one class law firm. More importantly, these bone lead scan test has not been approvedfor use in humans by the FDA.

Any child or adult who had a Flint address, school record, day-care record, or work history during the time of the water switch should be considered exposed and should be compensated fairly regardless of whether they have medical documentation.

SETTLEMENT CONCERNS FOR ADULTS

The settlement was also crafted with major flaws for adults. Throughout the pandemic, Adults have not been properly informed about the settlement process or the registration deadline of March 29th. The majority of people exposed in Flint have neither opted in nor opted out of the settlement. Those who have joined, giving up their future right to sue the defendants for the water crisis, still do not know how much they will receive from the settlement after lawyer fees. Adults face additional barriers below:

Medical Proof: Adults are required to provide proof that the water crisis caused or exacerbated their medical concerns — proof that the medical community was and is still reluctant to give. Without proof of lead levels or medical documentation of physical injury, residents are compensated under “Category 28: Property Damage” splitting no more than $1000 per household, less than what was paid in initial water bills for water that the defendants poisoned Flint with.

Too Narrow in Scope: There was more than lead in Flint’s water. It is public knowledge that there were other bacteria, and chemicals such as PFAS, and TTHM in the water. Groups of residents believe the increase in kidney disease and certain types of auto-immune cancer can be attributed to the water crisis. Every individual, not only households who were exposed to the water, should receive healthcare and thousands of dollars in compensation because officials exposed Flint to poison and manufactured another layer of trauma.

Medical Coverage: After being exposed for 18 months to racial trauma and contaminated Flint water, every adult and child resident who was exposed should receive medical coverage without income restrictions — Medicare for All for life. Whether this comes through this settlement or through ACA legislation (similar to Libby, MT,) this healthcare package should be of utmost priority to those representing this community.

The unknown dollar amount for those joining the settlement, along with other hurdles and obstacles to justice, continues to re-traumatize the Flint, Mich. community. Through this partial settlement, the courts have created an exclusionary process that covers relatively few. Flint residents do not want what happened in the Water Crisis to become the model, both in terms of the initial harm, and the legal side of the recovery process.

Flint residents have concerns that our voices are not being well-represented in this stage of the fight. A significant number of residents learned of the settlement during the week of the registration deadline, March 29th, 2021, which did not allow the opportunity to understand the details, opt in/out, or file objections. We call on you to:

  1. Issue a public statement, in your official capacity, amplifying the settlement concerns raised above
  2. Demand a second registration, objections, and opt-out period for the settlement
  3. Push for legislation that provides Flint Medicare for All for life, covering all children and adults exposed to contaminated Flint water. Healthcare is a critical piece that the proposed settlement fails to address.

Help your constituents as we all work to make all of Flint whole.

Respectfully,

Jasmine Hall — Flint Epidemiologist, BM4F Lead Prevention Ambassador, and NAACP Health Chair; Judy Alexander, Flint Resident; Councilman Eric MaysClaire McClinton, Democracy Defense League; Imari Smith,Flint Resident; Pastor McClane, Greater Destiny Ministries; Former Flint Mayor Dr. Karen Weaver; E. Yvonne Lewis, National Center for African American Health Consciousness; Laura MacIntyre, Democracy Defense League and Flint School Board Treasurer, LaTricea Adams, President Black Millennials 4 Flint & President Biden’s WHEJAC Appointee , and Nayyirah Shariff, Director of Flint Rising, with the support of Black Millennials 4 Flint (BM4F,) Michigan Poor People’s Campaign, and Neighborhoods without Borders

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