EPA gives Flint $100M to help repair pipes

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — The Environmental Protection Agency said Friday it is awarding a $100 million emergency grant to Michigan to fund infrastructure upgrades in Flint, where lead-contaminated water damaged service lines.

The state of Michigan is contributing matching funds of $20 million for a total award of $120 million.

The funding was approved by Congress in December and signed into law by President Barack Obama, but the EPA had to review and approve a formal request from state officials detailing how the city intends to use the grant money.

Flint intends to spend the grant money to improve its water treatment plant, replace underground pipes throughout the city and make other system upgrades. Mayor Karen Weaver said the city is grateful to receive the “much-needed” funds, as it aims to replace 6,000 pipes this year, among other upgrades.

“The city of Flint being awarded a grant of this magnitude in such a critical time of need will be a huge benefit,” Weaver said.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said his agency will “especially focus on helping Michigan improve Flint’s water infrastructure as part of its larger goal of improving America’s water infrastructure.”

“The people of Flint and all Americans deserve a more responsive federal government,” Pruitt said in a statement.

The state will administer the federal aid through the Drinking Water Revolving Fund, providing money to the city in the form of loans it would fully forgive.

“I appreciate the EPA approving this funding to assist with Flint’s recovery,” Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said in a statement. “Combined with the nearly $250 million in state funding already allocated, this will help keep Flint on a solid path forward. It’s great to see federal, state and local partners continuing to work together to help with infrastructure upgrades and pipe replacements for the people of Flint.”

Of the $120 million, Michigan may immediately release $51.5 million to Flint for lead-service line replacements, distribution main improvements and corrosion control studies, according to a Friday letter from the EPA to Weaver and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

The EPA said the remaining $68.5 million in funding, while conditionally approved, will not be provided until the city and state complete additional technical reviews and gather public comment.

Under the plan the DEQ submitted, the remaining money is intended for replacing water meters ($10 million) and upgrading the city’s water treatment plant ($58.5 million).

Democratic Michigan Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters and Rep. Dan Kildee of Flint Township helped craft a bipartisan agreement to secure the emergency federal aid. On Friday, they applauded the EPA’s award and called on the state to provide more aid.

“Today we have good news for families in Flint who have already waited far too long for their water system to be fixed,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement.

“The people of Flint are strong and resilient, and we will continue to fight for the resources and assistance they need. It’s also past time for the State of Michigan to do everything in its power to meet its responsibilities to help the city recover from this man-made crisis.”

Republican Rep. Fred Upton of St. Joseph, who also worked on the bipartisan agreement, said he was proud to support the efforts to secure the emergency aid.

“These much-needed funds will provide a huge benefit to the people of Flint. We worked extremely hard, on a bipartisan basis, to make sure this funding was included,” Upton said.

“The federal government had a role to play in this tragedy, and so the federal government bears responsibility to help make the situation right.”