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Newly appointed “settlement master” could change government response to Flint water crisis

Dec 30, 2016

A judge has appointed a mediator in a federal case that could dramatically change how the state of Michigan responds to the Flint water crisis.

Last month, U.S. District Judge David Lawson ordered the state to immediately begin delivering safe bottled water to Flint residents. Right now the state provides water and filters but residents have to pick it up or call a hotline to get it delivered.

Flint officials argue in court documents the city simply cannot afford to deliver supplies to everyone. The state filed documents saying water tests show Flint’s water is meeting federal standards. The state is asking Judge Lawson to dissolve this order.  

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Flint's water is technically still not safe to drink without a filter. There is a meeting at U.S. EPA region headquarters next month in Chicago to compare data sets and figure out recommendations and next steps.

Neither side is arguing with the appointment of this so-called “settlement master.”

Paul Monicatti, who has offices in Troy, has been doing this type of mediation work for 30 years. He can't speak to the media about the case, but his bio says he has both law and chemistry degrees. His biggest case was a multi-billion-dollar settlement involving Dow Corning’s silicone breast implants in the 1990s.

It’s not clear if Judge Lawson will rule on either side’s motions while the mediation is taking place.

A group of Flint residents filed the class action case with help from the ACLU and Natural Resources Defense Council.

The case alleges the state and City of Flint repeatedly violated federal laws regarding water contamination and failed to ensure there is safe drinking water for the public.

The lawsuit asks a federal judge to order the defendants replace all lead pipes in Flint at no cost to the users of the lines and to ensure defendants do not commit any more actions against the Safe Drinking Water Act. It also asks for defendants to remedy the damage done already, in whatever way the court deems necessary.

In March 2016, they filed a motion seeking water delivery or professional installation of water filters.

Governor Rick Snyder is not a party to the lawsuit, but his office says he believes “mediation is the best way forward in this case.” His attorney sent a letter to Judge Lawson requesting mediation earlier this month.