FLINT, Mich. ― Flint Mayor Karen Weaver announced today that crews working to get the lead out of Flint have identified the remaining 29 homes where service lines will be replaced by the end of the month as part of the mayor’s Fast Start program.
“This is a significant development,” Mayor Weaver said. “There was a lot that had to be done before the digging could start. Now that the homes have been identified and the permits are secured, crews can get to work replacing more pipes.”
The first lead service line in Flint replaced under Fast Start on March 4th, when a new copper line was installed leading to the home of a couple expecting a child in May. Moving forward, crews are expected to replace lines at two houses a day through the end of March (weather permitting). Lead service lines leading to homes at 2407 and 2419 Welch Boulevard on the city’s west side will be replaced Monday.
The goal of Mayor Weaver’s Fast Start initiative is to replace all lead-tainted service lines in the city, with an initial estimate that 15,000 lines will need to be replaced. The project will now include the removal of service lines made of lead and galvanized steel, as both types appear to be contributing to the lead contamination in Flint’s water supply. Mayor Weaver has put the preliminary cost for the plan at $55 million.
Mayor Weaver launched the Fast Start initiative in February with a pledge to restore Flint residents’ faith in the city’s water supply by removing pipes contributing to dangerously high lead levels shown in water test results. A state-appointed emergency manager switched the city’s water source in 2014 to the Flint River without needed corrosion control chemicals being added. The corrosive water removed a protective coating on the inside of the pipes, causing lead to leach into the water flowing to businesses and homes.
“I want to say again that I am totally resolved to get the lead out of Flint by removing these lead-tainted pipes leading to people’s homes. But we can’t stop there,” said Mayor Weaver. “Nothing less than a complete renewal of Flint’s water system is needed, as well as enough money to provide health, education, economic and family services to the children and adults in Flint affected by the water crisis. We need the state and federal government to provide these badly needed funds.”
Retired National Guard Brigadier General Michael McDaniel, who also is a professor of law at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School, was appointed last month by Mayor Weaver 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.
McDaniel said the first 30 homes selected for pipe replacements were chosen based on three factors:
High lead in residential water sampling based on data from Virginia Tech and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ);
Homes located in neighborhoods with a high population of children and elderly residents, based on modeling by the University of Michigan-Flint;
Geographically dispersed locations across the city, to assure the greatest amount of information ― including age of construction of homes, age of city mains, and age of water in the mains ― can be gained.
Engineering teams have spent the past week notifying homeowners of the scheduled work, obtaining their concurrence, notifying MISS DIG and other agencies, coordinating water sampling of the homes (which will also be done before and after each pipe is replaced), and confirming the composition of the pipes, McDaniel said. Neighbors also are being notified, so they are aware they may see some changes in their water when the work is done, and they may need to run the water for a short period of time to flush the pipes.
“This is a complicated process. But we’re determined to get pipes replaced to 30 homes by March 31st, and to continue the work from there,” McDaniel said. “Fast Start is an ambitious initiative, but the residents and business owners in Flint deserve to know everything possible is being done to make their water free of lead.”
It’s important to note, not all pipe replacements in Flint will be part of the Fast Start initiative. Crews working for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, MDEQ and community groups may be replacing service lines as well. This is allowed, as long as the procedures set in place by the city are followed.
On Thursday, Mayor Weaver called on the U.S. Congress and the Michigan Legislature to provide the funding necessary to fix Flint’s contaminated drinking water infrastructure and address the health needs of the children and families of Flint who must use bottled water every day for drinking, bathing and cooking because of the ongoing crisis.
A $220 million federal package has been put together by Michigan Reps. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters with senior Republican support. Flint is awaiting action by the Michigan Legislature on appropriation of $127 million for water infrastructure, health resources, children and family services, and economic renewal through supplemental budget bills that are still being debated.
For now, the Fast Start plan will continue using the $2 million reimbursement from the state (money the City spent to switch back to Detroit water). Mayor Weaver hopes the state and federal government will provide the additional funds needed to complete the project. Another option being considered, is to accept the help of a union owned asset manager, Union Labor Life Insurance Company (ULLICO), which pledged on March 6th to bring $25 million in low-cost loans to Flint to help remove the lead-tainted pipes. The loans could serve as a bridge source of capital until funding from the State of Michigan and federal government is secured. The ULLICO loans put into action a commitment made by labor and union pensions at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) to create a national fund to invest in infrastructure in cities across America.