(FLINT)– Mayor Karen Weaver announced today that her administration intends to begin replacing lead pipes in Flint next week to restore safe, clean drinking water as quickly as possible to the citizens of her city. She called on Gov. Rick Snyder to pressure the Legislature to move immediately to approve funding for the first phase of her $55 million Fast Start lead pipe replacement plan.
Mayor Weaver said she is working with water infrastructure experts from the Lansing Board of Water & Light (BWL) to train local Flint workers on lead pipe removal at a vacant property in Flint owned by the Genesee County Land Bank. The training exercise is set to begin next week at a location to be announced. House-by-house lead service line removal and replacement operations targeting high-risk households across the city will commence shortly thereafter, Weaver said.
Mayor Weaver said she is very pleased that her Fast Start plan has been endorsed by renowned Virginia Tech water expert Dr. Marc Edwards, who is widely hailed for his role in uncovering the shocking lead levels in Flint’s water supply and frequently testifies before Congress on lead contamination in municipal water systems. Dr. Edwards confirmed to MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show last week that he supports Mayor Weaver’s project moving forward.
“These guys know what they are doing,” Edwards told MSNBC. “Society needs to decide if lead pipe replacements are a good investment. Personally, I think so. I support this plan.”
“I will not accept anything less than full removal of all lead pipes from our water system,” said Mayor Weaver. “I continue to hear from Lansing that the people of Flint should wait to see if pipes can be ‘coated.’ I call on Governor Snyder to end that discussion, and to commit fully to getting the lead out of Flint.”
She added: “Legislative leaders and Governor Snyder say they want to see our city recover. Job one in that recovery is removal of lead service lines. This Legislature can move bills in a matter of hours when it wants to. Now is the time for the state to accept its duty and its responsibility and cover the cost of this important action.”
During the training exercise next week, the BWL will demonstrate its innovative technology for removing and replacing lead pipes with new copper pipes in half the time at half the cost of traditional methods. The Lansing public water and electric utility has perfected its technique by removing more than 13,500 lead pipes in Michigan’s capital city over the past 12 years.
“Flint is so fortunate to have great neighbors, friends and partners reaching out to us from every corner of Michigan, across the country and all around the world. Our sister city right next door in Lansing is definitely one of our strongest allies,” Weaver said. “I’m especially grateful to Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero and the Board of Water & Light for their help. Together, we’re going to get the lead out of Flint, starting next week.”
Mayor Weaver said she also appreciates Gov. Snyder’s change of heart on moving quickly to replace Flint’s lead pipes and his recent budget proposal to partially fund the project, but she is not agreeing to allow the governor’s engineering firm and contractors do the work. Weaver welcomed the governor’s interest in working with the city to coordinate removal of the first 30 lead service lines, but noted that much more needs to be done by Gov. Snyder and others to secure full funding for her plan.
Toward that end, Mayor Weaver said she is working closely with The White House and Flint’s representatives in the Michigan Legislature and U.S. Congress to secure full funding for her lead pipe removal project, as well as long-term funding to fully repair the city’s devastated water distribution system. She called on state and federal lawmakers to move quickly to approve emergency funding for her project while long-term repairs to Flint’s water distribution system are evaluated.
“Lansing and Washington need to understand that the first and most critical priority is an emergency public health intervention to start getting rid of these pipes immediately,” Weaver said. “Then we can figure out exactly what it will cost over the long-term to fix our broken water distribution system. If we have to replace major components or even the whole system, it will cost an enormous amount of money. Everyone needs to be prepared for that possibility. Let’s start a serious conversation about where that money is going to come from while we get to work removing the pipes.”
If funding to ramp up her Fast Start project is not secured quickly from the state or federal government, Weaver said she may have to take her case directly to the national and international audience that is closely following the daily indignities still being suffered by the people of Flint, especially the city’s children, who have been living on bottled water for months after being forced to drink lead-poisoned water for nearly two years.
“If the state and federal governments won’t pay to restore safe drinking water and dignity to the people of my city, I may have to go on national TV and crowdsource the funding on the Internet,” Weaver said. “Rachel Maddow might just be willing to help me issue a worldwide challenge to the celebrities and other philanthropic donors who are showing so much love for Flint.
“We’re going to get this done — and done quickly — by any and every means necessary,” Weaver concluded. “The people of my city have simply run out of patience and I have a moral obligation to act.”