Flint mayor sees pipe gains despite reporting problems
Flint officials said Thursday they have been working to improve their reports on replaced water pipelines after attorneys for activists filed a motion Wednesday in federal court saying the city has been derelict in filing “timely, accurate and complete status reports.”
Attorneys for the Concerned Pastors For Social Action and the Natural Resources Defense Council made the request to Detroit U.S. District Judge David Lawson, who has been overseeing the four-year, $97 million settlement of a lawsuit related to the Flint contaminated water crisis.
“For nine months, the city has consistently violated the agreement’s disclosure provisions. The city has repeatedly provided late, incomplete and inaccurate status reports,” according to the filing. “And it has routinely dragged its feet in responding to plaintiff’s basic and concrete questions about how the city keeps records on its compliance and who maintains them.”
The city of Flint didn’t necessarily deny the allegations, but Mayor Karen Weaver said in a Thursday statement that the city has “worked collaboratively” to adhere to the “proposed changes to how status reports are provided.”
The filing by attorneys Dimple Chaudhary and Sarah Tallman argues the city had not yet collected a list of addresses where Flint residents declined to let city officials replace their service lines as well as the dates of the specific refusals. These were among the actions that violated the settlement agreement, the filing states.
“The city must document compliance with its obligations by providing periodic status reports to plaintiffs and timely responding to plaintiff’s reasonable requests for other information relating to the agreement’s implementation,” the filing stated. “These information-sharing requirements are critical to ensuring that plaintiff’s -- and ultimately the court -- can hold the city accountable to its commitments under the agreement.”
The settlement stemmed from a lawsuit filed last year by a coalition of religious, environmental and civil rights activists that alleged Flint water was not safe to drink because state and city officials were violating the Safe Drinking Water Act.
The agreement requires a bevy of work in Flint including replacing 18,000 lead and other pipes as well as providing continued bottled water distribution and funding of health care programs for affected residents in the city of nearly 100,000 residents.
To date, city officials said service lines to more than 6,229 homes in Flint have been replaced since the creation of the FAST Start program in March 2016. The lines leached lead into the drinking water after the city switched to the corrosive Flint River as its water source for 18 months during 2014-15.
While lead levels in the city’s drinking water have fallen below the federal standard of 15 parts per billion, the state advises residents to drink only filtered city water or bottled water. The state plans to lift the restrictions after all of Flint’s service lines are replaced.
Weaver said Flint “remains committed to replacing all lead and galvanized water service lines leading to homes in Flint” and that the motion does not in any way jeopardize the city’s efforts or the funding commitments for service line replacements.
“No one wants to get the lead out of Flint more than me,” the mayor said. “My administration and I are doing all we can to ensure the health and safety of residents, which includes continuing the work of removing and replacing lead-tainted residential service lines in 2018 and 2019, with the funding guaranteed by the Concerned Pastors’ settlement agreement.”
The filing also asserts that the city of Flint failed to report information verifying filter installations following service line replacements.