Utility: Flint’s lead lines could be replaced in a year

Chad Livengood, and Melissa Nann Burke

Lansing’s public utility estimates that 32 crews working regular full-time hours could replace Flint’s 15,000 water service lines containing toxic lead metal within a year, city officials said Monday.

The Lansing Board of Water & Light is providing Flint officials with technical advice on how to unearth and replace the city’s sprawling 550-mile-long network of iron pipes containing toxic lead metal that has tainted Flint’s water supply.

“BWL is stepping up and helping the mayor of Flint and the people of Flint with their expertise in removing lead pipes,” said Randy Hannan, spokesman for Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero.

Bernero recently offered Lansing’s assistance to Flint Mayor Karen Weaver because of the capital city’s experience in removing aging lead service lines.

Lansing BWL has slowly replaced 13,500 lead service lines since 2004. The remaining 650 lead-soldered water lines running from city streets into homes and business are scheduled to be removed by June 2017, said Stephen Serkaian, executive director of public affairs for Lansing BWL.

Hannan said Lansing BWL’s water utility staff met Monday with Flint’s public works staff to begin an advisory role that could eventually result in Lansing technicians training Flint workers on how to best remove lead service water lines.

“We are in the early stages of evaluating the scope and nature of the LBWL’s engagement with the City of Flint given its knowledge and history with this issue,” Flint spokeswoman Kristin Moore said Monday in an email.

Weaver has scheduled a news conference Tuesday morning to announce the next steps in her plan to remove lead pipes.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has estimated it would cost $50 million to $80 million to replace all the lead service lines in Flint.

BWL officials “crunched the numbers” to estimate it would take 32 full-time crews a year — and no unforeseen problems — to replace all of Flint’s lead-tainted water pipes, Hannan said.

Bernero began efforts to rid Lansing of lead service pipes when he was a state senator, his spokesman said. The mayor could not be reached Monday for comment.


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