3/31/23: $20M in opioid suit settlements

Friday, March 31, 2023

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Kalamazoo County expects up to $20M in settlements from opioid lawsuits. Funds are to be used to address the effects of the drug epidemic locally. Also: The cost of waste disposal quadruples. And a state agency based at WMU is hiring to make sure water well databases are accurate so residents can plan and emergencies can be mitigated.

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County expects up to $20M in opioid lawsuit settlement funds

Kalamazoo County is planning for as much as $20 million total from eight settlements in lawsuits they joined against pharmaceutical firms, distributors, and drug stores found culpable in the opioid crisis. Those industries have been found to have lax protocols if not actively encourage the distribution of drugs like OxyContin which was both harmful and unethical.

Deputy County Administrator Lyndi Warner said the county has received funds from two settlements, a third just settled, and five more are expected this year. Unlike tobacco lawsuit settlements, which did not have any massive restrictions in spending, Warner says up to 85% of the money must be used for addressing opioid and other substance abuse issues, and spending on anything else will be audited.

The funding for such services was already going up, because a change in state law allocates more from the alcohol tax for treatment, Warner said. Meetings have already begun to determine how much of that money could help county-run programs and how much can be used to support local clinics and healthcare agencies. The final decision will be up to the county commission. 

Human waste disposal quadruples in cost for Kalamazoo city

It is Kalamazoo’s end product, and it costs a lot more to get rid of it. The City of Kalamazoo has approved a $40 million dollar contract to have bio-solids from the wastewater treatment plant hauled off to landfills near Detroit and north of Grand Rapids for the next three years.

Public Services Director James Baker says the $13 million a year bill is four times what they paid just a few years ago. After collecting and treating everything that flows from toilets and drains of residences and businesses throughout the city, the plant produces 220 tons of wet sludge every day of the year, which is filled into as many as 20 dump trucks a day.

Cost increases are due to a number of factors, Baker says, from fuel and salary costs to regulations and requirements to protect the environment and guard against PFAS chemicals. This is built into the justification for the 20% increase to water and wastewater bills this year.

Baker said Kalamazoo doesn’t send its bio-solids to farms to use as fertilizers like other communities do because it could be a liability if there’s anything in it that is found to be hazardous.

NowKalamazoo Partner Event
Group of people laughing and chatting underneath the text "Eat. Drink. Give. Craft beer. Wine. Great food."

A fundraising gala supporting

logo for Gryphon Place

Friday, April 28, 2023 | 7-10PM
Girl Scouts Program & Training Center

It’s back! Eat Drink Give returns to bring hundreds of guests together to enjoy a memorable evening filled with food, drinks, music, and fun. This gala features tasty creations, an impressive selection of wine, beer, and non-alcoholic beverages for sampling, an awesome venue, fabulous raffle and auction prizes, and best of all — people who want to make a difference!

The funds raised at Eat Drink Give will support Gryphon Place’s local programs and services, including 2-1-1, suicide prevention, youth services, Restorative Practices and more. We know the last few years have been difficult for everyone, so the joy of celebrating and supporting our community is needed now more than ever. We hope to see you there!

For tickets and more information: www.gryphon.org/edg

More News You Need To Know

WMU-based state agency hiring dozens for water protection study

The Michigan Geological Survey, which is housed at Western Michigan University, is hiring a dozen additional employees to make sure the state’s database of 1.2 million water wells is accurate. The Triage Project, which received nearly $3 million in state funding, began in 2019 after the state discovered that as many of 40% of the wells in its database had incorrect location information. The records are for well sites dating back to 1880. The team has another 400,000 wells to catalogue by 2025 and is using aerial imagery and other methods to make the database accurate.

Evie Murgia, a project manager at the Geological Survey, said the database is important to adequately respond to environmental emergencies and find and prevent water contamination such as from PFAS chemicals. It’s also helpful for residents who use wells for drinking water supplies and need to plan for replacement due to age and water levels. The data will also help track trends and other changes, which is important because of how complex Michigan’s geology is due to historic glacial formations, and to plan as the state’s population grows. [WMUK]

Bronco students’ annual fashion show to focus on industry pollution

The fashion industry’s contribution to global waste and environmental damage is being turned on its head by WMU’s Merchandising Opportunities and Design Association, or MODA, at its annual fashion show next month. The organization announced the student designers are creating projects that will spotlight the harmful effects of consumerism and ways to become more sustainable.

“This event is an opportunity to bring together designers, students, and the community to reflect on the impact of the fashion industry on the planet and inspire action towards a sustainable future,” said MODA President Erin Boismier. A portion of the show’s proceeds from ticket and other sales are to be donated to the YWCA and EarthJustice, a legal environmental justice nonprofit. The spring show, called Ulta Reflection, is 7 p.m. on April 7, at the Kalamazoo County Expo Center. [WWMT]

Things To Do In Kalamazoo

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2023 Student Sustainability Summit – Climate Emergency Month at WMU Office for Sustainability
1:00PM 3/31

Music with Steve Kamerling – Brick + Brine
6:00PM 3/31

Dave Johnson – The Distant Whistle Brewhouse
6:00PM 3/31

Kalamazoo Numismatic Club Coin Show – Kalamazoo County Expo Center
9:00AM 4/1

Edible Book Festival 2023 – Kalamazoo Book Arts Center
2:30PM 4/1

3 of a Kind – Hilton Garden Inn
7:00PM 4/1

Breakin’ Ballet presents Rock Your Soul: Live Music and Dance – Bell’s Eccentric Cafe
8:00PM 4/1

Keith Hall Trio – Hub Tavern & Grill


Snarky Puppy – Kalamazoo State Theatre
8:00PM 4/2

See more upcoming events here.

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