Heath

A federal judge on Tuesday approved a $97 million settlement in a lawsuit over drinking water contamination in the US city of Flint, Michigan, requiring that all lead pipes be replaced.

The agreement comes almost three years after lead first began to contaminate the drinking water of the hard-scrabble Midwestern city near the US automotive capital of Detroit, due to a switch to a more corrosive water source that had not been properly treated to protect aging underground pipes.

The lead contamination, initially denied by state and local officials, poisoned thousands of children. The tainted water caused the deaths of 12 people from Legionnaire’s disease, officials said.

According to the state’s top law enforcement official who is now investigating the crisis, a $200-a-day water treatment would have prevented the lead leaching.

The settlement requires that all of Flint’s lead and galvanized steel pipes be replaced within three years. The state must also guarantee the availability of water filters through 2018 and provide bottled water at least until September.

US District Court Judge David Lawson will monitor the settlement’s implementation.

“For the first time, there will be an enforceable commitment to get the lead pipes out of the ground. The people of Flint are owed at least this much,” said Dimple Chaudhary, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The NRDC is one of the groups that brought the lawsuit along with Flint area pastors and the Michigan chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Flint resident Melissa Mays was also a party to the suit.

“This is a win for the people of Flint,” Mays said in a statement. “The greatest lesson I’ve learned from Flint’s water crisis is that change only happens when you get up and make your voice heard.”

Almost half of the money in the settlement will come directly from the state of Michigan, with the rest allocated by the US Congress.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder supported the settlement, saying it was the best path forward for Flint.

“While the settlement provides for commitments to many different resources, the state will continue striving to work on many priorities to ensure the city of Flint has a positive future,” Snyder said in a statement.

Thirteen current and former government officials have been criminally charged in the ongoing investigation of the handling of the water crisis and the decisions that caused it.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has also sued two water engineering companies, the French firm Veolia and the Texas-based Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam, claiming they failed to prevent or properly address the crisis.

The two companies have denied wrongdoing.

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Humans likely developed large and powerful brains, researchers said Monday, with the help of what is today the simplest of snacks: fruit.

Eating fruit was a key step up from the most basic of foodstuffs, such as leaves, and provided the energy needed to grow bulkier brains, the scientists argued.

“That’s how we got these crazy huge brains,” said the study’s corresponding author Alex Decasien, a researcher at New York University. “We have blown up the quality of our food that we are eating.”

The study published in Nature Ecology & Evolution looked at the staple foods of over 140 species of primates, and assumed their diets haven’t changed much over the course of recent evolution.

According to the research, the animals which feast on fruit have brains that are about 25 percent bigger than those filling their bellies primarily with leaves.

The results call into question the theory that has prevailed since the mid-1990s, which says bigger brains developed out of the need to survive and reproduce in complex social groups.

Decasien said the challenges of living in a group could be part of getting smarter, but found no link between the complexity of primates’ social lives and the size of their grey matter.

What did correlate strongly with brain size was eating fruit.

Foods such as fruit contain more energy than basic sources like leaves, thus creating the additional fuel needed to evolve a bigger brain.

At the same time, remembering which plants produce fruit, where they are, and how to break them open could also help a primate grow a bigger brain.

A larger brain also needs more fuel to keep it running.

“We’ve heard that fact saying (our brain) is two percent of our body weight, but it takes up 25 percent of our energy,” Decasien said.

“It’s a crazy expensive organ.”

While the study challenges some of the orthodoxy of how our brains evolved, the research is likely to continue.

“I feel confident that their study will refocus and reinvigorate research seeking to explain cognitive complexity in primates and other mammals,” wrote Chris Venditti, a researcher at the University of Reading in Britain in a comment on the study, also published in Nature Ecology & Evolution.

“But many questions remain,” he added.

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