A step forward for Flint

Allen Overton and Melissa Mays

It’s been nearly three years since the water from our taps became rust-colored and foul smelling. For three years, we have fought for clean, safe water for this community. We protested. We signed petitions. We organized marches. We went door to door and collected water samples. We educated ourselves about the harmful effects of lead and the laws that are supposed to ensure our water is safe.

And because our own leaders ignored those laws, told us our water was safe when they knew it wasn’t, and refused to hold anyone accountable, we took matters into our own hands. We went to court to enforce the law and fight for Flint. We used our power as citizens to take on a government that failed the people in every way.

Now, as a result of our lawsuit, there’s some good news for Flint. It’s about time.

Under an agreement in the lawsuit we filed, the state of Michigan and city of Flint are required to replace Flint’s lead and galvanized steel water pipes within three years.

This is not just a promise, or the kind of lip service from elected officials we’ve been hearing for years. This is a legal requirement enforceable by a federal court.

Does this settlement agreement resolve every problem Flint faces as the result of the water crisis? No. We still have lots to do to rebuild our city and make it a place where we want our children to grow up and thrive.

Does this agreement leave the community better off than it was before? Yes. That’s why we signed our names to it. Here’s what the people of Flint will get from this settlement agreement:

Lead pipe replacement: The state will pay $87 million to replace lead and galvanized steel service lines, with an additional $10 million held in reserve to make certain there is enough money to complete the work. This money will cover the costs of finding and removing these pipes for at least 18,000 homes, the current estimated total number of lead and galvanized steel service lines. The city will be required to remove the service lines within three years.

Tap monitoring for lead: Flint residents will be able to get tap water tested for lead, free of charge, for at least the next four years. There will be two programs to monitor for lead in Flint’s water, beyond what is required by law, including one run by an independent monitor who does not work for the city or state.

Filter inspection and installation: Through December 2018, staff from the state’s Community Outreach and Resident Education filter program will visit all Flint homes regularly to ensure that everyone’s water filter is properly installed. They will also teach people how to take care of their water filters.

Bottled water: Residents will be able to pick up bottled water from distribution sites until at least Sept. 1, 2017. Through at least June 2017, the state must continue to provide bottled water deliveries to people who are unable to leave their homes and to residents who request delivery through the 211 helpline.

This is a win for the people of Flint. Getting those lead pipes out of the ground will allow us to rebuild and restore faith in our community. And we’re not done fighting. We’re committed to making sure the agreement is enforced, and that the city and state meet their obligations to guarantee safe water for everyone in Flint. We hope you will work with us to get the job done.

Pastor Allen Overton and Melissa Mays were plaintiffs in the federal safe drinking water case, Concerned Pastors for Social Action v. Khouri, which will lead to the replacement of lead water pipes in Flint.