By Tyler Clifford and Kanishka Singh
Nov 10 (Reuters) - A federal judge on Wednesday approved a settlement worth $626 million for victims of the lead water crisis in Flint, Michigan, in a case brought by tens of thousands of residents affected by the contaminated water.
"The settlement reached here is a remarkable achievement for many reasons, not the least of which is that it sets forth a comprehensive compensation program and timeline that is consistent for every qualifying participant," U.S. District Judge Judith Levy said in a 178-page order.
Earlier this year, the judge gave preliminary approval to a partial settlement of lawsuits filed by victims of the water crisis against the state. read more
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.
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 United States as it afflicted a city of about 100,000 people, more than half of whom are African-Americans.
The contamination prompted several lawsuits from parents who said their children were showing dangerously high blood levels of lead, which can cause development disorders. Lead can be toxic and children are especially vulnerable.
Former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder was charged in January with two counts of willful neglect of duty over the lead-poisoning of drinking water in Flint. read more
Payouts from the settlement approved on Wednesday will be made based on a formula that directs more money to younger claimants and to those who can prove greater injury. Michigan's attorney general has previously said that the settlement would rank as the largest in the state's history.
"Although this is a significant victory for Flint, we have a ways to go in stopping Americans from being systematically poisoned in their own homes, schools, and places of work", Corey Stern, a counsel for the plaintiffs, said in a statement after the judge's order on Wednesday.
Reporting by Tyler Clifford and Kanishka Singh; Editing by Tim Ahmann and Karishma Singh