March 4, 2016 (FLINT) ― Mayor Karen Weaver today kicked off her Fast Start initiative to replace all the lead service lines in Flint and restore safe, clean drinking water as soon as possible to citizens by having a new copper pipe installed to the home of a Flint couple expecting a child later this year.
Barry Richardson II and his fiancée, Ashley Haddock, have been using bottled water for basic things like, brushing their teeth and cooking because of their concerns about lead in their water. With the baby due in March and Mr. Richardson’s 8-year-old daughter also spending time with them, the couple has taken special care to protect themselves from the tainted water since lead is known to cause neurological and physical damage, especially in children. The couple was relieved to learn their home’s lead service line would be replaced free of charge under the Fast Start program.
“We’re really happy to know we can stop worrying so much about our children’s health being endangered by lead in the water,” said Mr. Richardson, who along with Ms. Haddock works at a grocery store outside Flint. He had been considering selling the home he bought in 2011, but said he plans to stay in Flint longer now that the lead pipe is being replaced.
Mayor Weaver launched the Fast Start lead service line replacement initiative after lead was discovered in the water supplying the city of about 100,000 residents. A state-appointed emergency manager switched Flint’s water source in 2014 to the Flint River. The switch was made without the required anti-corrosive chemicals being added. The corrosive water removed a protective coating on the inside of the pipes, allowing lead to leach into the water going to homes and businesses.
During a news conference that took place just before the lead pipe at the Richardson home was replaced, Mayor Weaver called on Gov. Rick Snyder to encourage GOP leaders in the Michigan Legislature to quickly approve $25 million for the first phase of the $55 million Fast Start plan. She also wants Congress to pass a bipartisan plan led by U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters of Michigan for $220 million in clean water and health funding. Further, Flint expects the Michigan legislature to move forward and pass a $195.4 million supplemental appropriations package which is badly needed to provide health services, children and family services, and educational intervention strategies to help impacted families in hard-hit Flint.
“I want to say again that I am totally resolved to get the lead out of Flint. But we can’t stop there,” Mayor Weaver said. “We need to move on to a complete renewal of Flint’s water system, and to provide health, education, economic and family services to the children and adults in Flint who have been affected by the water crisis.”
Mayor Weaver was joined at today’s press conference by retired National Guard Brigadier General Michael C.H. McDaniel, who is also a professor of law at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School. Weaver appointed McDaniel last month to lead the Flint Action and Sustainability Team (FAST), which will coordinate Fast Start activities between the City of Flint, state and federal departments and agencies, and other stakeholders. Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, who has been instrumental in helping Mayor Weaver get the Fast Start initiative and funding requests underway, also was in attendance.
“I want to sincerely thank Mayor Bernero for assisting me in making sure Flint gets the assistance it needs to recover from this manmade disaster,” Mayor Weaver said. “Having him in our corner has helped make the world take notice of the huge task ahead to restore our city.”
The Lansing Board of Water & Light, which has replaced more than 13,500 lead service lines in Lansing over the past 12 years, will be lending its expertise to the project. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality are working with the city as well.
The City of Flint and contractors are now confirming which homes have lead service lines. The Fast Start initiative will be targeted first at homes in neighborhoods with the highest number of children under 6 years old, senior citizens, pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems, and households where water tests indicate high levels of lead at the tap.
The City of Flint is starting the work of replacing lead pipes with the $2 million the state reimbursed the city for what it spent last fall reconnecting to water supplied by the Great Lakes Water Authority, which serves Detroit and surrounding communities. State and federal funds will be used to continue the work. It’s expected 30 homes will get new copper pipes in the next three weeks, with efforts ramping up as more contractors are hired and trained to do the work.
Fast Start is just the first step in an overall vision to restore Flint’s infrastructure to be safe and sustainable for future generations, and is only part of the effort needed to heal and renew the community.
“We have to start restoring people’s confidence and trust in our city’s water supply. This is what the citizens of Flint want, and we cannot afford to wait any longer,” Mayor Weaver said. “We know this is just the first step to giving Flint a sustainable, modernized water system and the additional resources it needs to fully recover.”