Effort to replace lead water pipes underway in Flint

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Work is underway to replace high-risk lead service lines in Flint in an effort to improve the city’s water quality and remedy widespread lead contamination, state officials announced Tuesday.

“We’re committed to the people of Flint, and the top priority is ensuring people have access to safe water,” Snyder said in a statement Tuesday. “We need to make sure people will be able to once again turn on the tap and be able to use what comes from it. We’re immediately targeting high-risk, high-hazard homes to help those families.”

There are an estimated 35,000 homes and businesses in Flint with lead service lines, according to the Governor’s Office. The state said it made an agreement Tuesday with Rowe Professional Services, a Flint-based engineering firm, to update a recent analysis of the city’s water pipes.

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“We need to find out which of the city’s pipes are made of lead and have lead soldering, and are the most critical to address immediately,” Snyder said. “We’re hiring Flint residents and training them to assist with that process, working together to make the community safer.”

It also comes after calls earlier this month by Flint Mayor Karen Weaver to replace residential lead service pipes in a $55 million “fast-start plan” that would use 32 crews to replace about 15,000 service lines at no cost to consumers. Weaver on Feb. 9 called on the state to partner on the replacement program, which is expected to average $3,670 per household.

Officials are seeking to replace Flint’s lead pipes as the city deals with lead contamination after it switched its water source in 2014 from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department’s system to the Flint River.

A $28 million supplemental budget request approved unanimously in the Legislature in January includes money for utilities and can be used to survey Flint’s pipes, Snyder said. He has also requested an additional $25 million supplemental budget to be used for water infrastructure. The request was included in a $195 million package Snyder unveiled Feb. 10 to provide support for Flint and its residents. He said other resources could possibly be tapped for pipe replacement funds.

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Retired National Guard Brig. General Michael McDaniel, with experience in emergency management, critical infrastructure and homeland security, is helping to coordinate the effort between Flint, the Lansing Board of Water and Light, state and federal agencies, and other stakeholders.

“Flint Mayor Karen Weaver wants this work to be completed as quickly as possible to protect Flint residents,” McDaniel said in a statement. “We’ve been working in partnership to identify the areas that need to be addressed immediately and remove lead pipes, bringing peace of mind to Flint families and make sure this never happens again.”

The plan follows an announcement Monday by the national NAACP of an “intense” campaign against the state if it doesn’t replace Flint’s lead pipes. NAACP president Cornell William Brooks gave Snyder’s administration 30 days before the launch of “direct action” including sit-ins and marches.


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