Flint Water Tower

The Flint Water Plant tower is seen, Friday, Feb. 5, 2016 in Flint, Mich. Flint is under a public health emergency after its drinking water became tainted when the city switched from the Detroit system and began drawing from the Flint River in April 2014 to save money. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

(The Center Square) – Federal judge Judge Judith Levy on Thursday gave preliminary approval to the $641 million Flint water settlement.

The court’s approval order will become effective on Jan. 27. This preliminary approval formally establishes an avenue for Flint residents to file settlement claims.

Levy must still issue a final ruling on whether the settlement is reasonable after a hearing on July 12.

“With Judge Levy’s preliminary approval granted, this historic settlement is one step closer to providing Flint residents with the financial relief that they may have otherwise never received if the legal back-and-forth were to continue in the courts,” Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a statement.

“While final approval remains pending, the settlement can provide people with security that their claims will be heard and not tied up in legal proceedings for an indefinite period of time. Plaintiffs’ counsel and state attorneys, court-appointed mediators and a special master have all concurred that this agreement was made with the best interests of Flint in mind, and a federal judge has now determined that it meets the necessary preliminary legal requirements to proceed."

Flint residents will have 60 days to register to join the settlement program.

After that, registered Flint residents will have 120 days to file evidence of their claims. More information can be found here.

If the court gives final approval to the settlement and no one challenges the order, the claims and payments could be complete in 2021. That timeline is dependent on the court’s schedule.

In August, Nessel and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced a $600 million preliminary settlement for the lawsuits filed against the state after Flint officials switched its public water supply to the Flint River in 2014. The water wasn’t treated for corrosion control. Lead and other contaminants leached into the drinking water, which supplied roughly 100,000 people.

The city of Flint is providing $20 million through its insurer, and McLaren Regional Medical Center and Rowe Professional Services Co. are contributing $20 million and $1.25 million, respectively.

If Levy grants final approval of the settlement, nearly 80% of the funds will go to those impacted as a minor.

Last week, charges were filed against former Gov. Rick Snyder and eight other officials in control of the switch at that time.

Staff Reporter

Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.