Via America’s Lawyer: Michigan residents are calling a settlement over the 2014 Flint Water Crisis a “Band-Aid on a bullet wound.” RT’s Brigida Santos joins Mike Papantonio to explain why victims are saying it’s too little too late, and how a neighboring city’s water supply is now also contaminated with lead.


*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.

Mike Papantonio:             A federal judge has awarded more than $600 million to residents of Flint, Michigan, who were affected by the lead water crisis in 2014. But this, is settlement enough? That’s the question on the table. Brigida Santos joins me now to talk about that. Brigida, how have local residents reacted to this settlement?

Brigida Santos:                   Well, so far over 40,000 Flint residents have signed up for a share of the newly announced $626 million settlement. Now that’s a little less than half of the city’s population. As for the reaction it’s mixed. Some residents welcome the payout, which they see as some consolation for the symptoms and illness they or their children suffered after ingesting, bathing in, or being exposed to the city’s lead and bacteria tainted water. But other residents say the small sum they’ll receive is inadequate and is only a small slap on the wrist for city officials whose negligence and greed caused this crisis. Many residents want every official who played a role in switching the water supply and failing to fix the situation held criminally accountable for poisoning thousands of people. To date, over a dozen city officials and state officials have been charged with crimes related to the water crisis, but those cases are still pending.

Mike Papantonio:             You know, you may remember I was settled for a billion dollars, a billion dollars, I settled against DuPont. But there, for the Ohio River Valley contamination, but there we had an actual, we had actual funds to go after. It seems to me like that’s been part of the problem that they have up there in Flint. Who are you going to go after? Who’s going to, who’s going to put money in to make this happen? It’s just not clear I don’t think to the residents that it was pretty iffy on where the money could come from. But Flint isn’t the only Michigan city to suffer from poisoned water. Activists in Benton Harbor are now battling the city and the county and the state to take action. What’s going on there?

Brigida Santos:                   Well, in Benton Harbor, Michigan, which is less than two hours from Chicago on the South Eastern shore of Lake Michigan, a low income majority black community is suffering the consequences of exposure to unsafe water just as we saw in Flint. Now in Benton Harbor state officials have told residents to drink and cook with bottled water after testing revealed high levels of brain damaging lead in the tap. And since tests were first conducted levels of the toxic metal have only increased despite orders from the state’s environmental agency to treat Lake Michigan’s water with chemicals that coat and protect lead pipes from leaching lead into the drinking water. The EPA has now ordered an overhaul of the city’s water treatment plant, which inspectors say has broken equipment, overflowing chemical tanks and missing records.

Mike Papantonio:             How, how prevalent are those lead service lines? Where we see them all over the country, but how, how prevalent are they up there? It’s almost the only delivery system they had once they changed their water source to that completely polluted river. We know it’s up there. How about across the country?

Brigida Santos:                   Yeah. Across the country, the environmental protection agency estimates that the US has between six and 10 million lead service lines. These small pipes connect water mains to a water customer’s property and for most of the 20th century service lines were made from lead pipes, many are still in place today. While a ban on installing new lead service lines took effect in 1988. Today, there are no national requirements to move, remove those previously installed lead service lines. And this is incredibly problematic since the CDC and the EPA say there are no safe levels of exposure to lead. Ingesting even the tiniest amount can permanently cause brain damage in children and lead to heart, kidney and other health problems for adults. Researchers estimate that 18% of all deaths in the US every year are caused by lead related illnesses. So this is a major problem.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah, what’s so ugly about it and in addition to that is that virtually every regulatory agency that should have been taking action has known about this problem for about, about 30 years now. And they simply kicked the can down the, down the street, waiting for the next person who’s in charge to solve the problem and in the process it’s caused, just it’s wrecked havoc with our children. Thank you for joining me, Brigida.

Brigida Santos:                   Thanks, Mike.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.