March 7, 2017 (FLINT, Mich) — Mayor Karen Weaver and FAST Start Coordinator Michael McDaniel today told hundreds of participants attending the Water Infrastructure Conference in Flint that the water crisis and the need to replace Flint’s damaged drinking water system is just one example of the nation’s antiquated infrastructure.
“I’m hoping that the smartest infrastructure thinkers in America from the government, the private sector and academia are here figuring out how to design, finance, and rebuild the Flint water system into a model for the nation,” Mayor Weaver said during opening remarks at the Riverfront Banquet Center. “Flint residents and businesses have already paid a huge price for this man-made water disaster, and fixing our water system is the most important step we need to take in helping Flint recover.”
The City is in the process of replacing around 20,000 lead and lead-tainted galvanized iron service lines leading from the water main to the water meter of homes around Flint. The water crisis began after a state-appointed emergency manager switched the City’s water source to the Flint River in 2014 without the necessary 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 homes and businesses in the City of Flint. Lead levels in some children rose, and water tests revealed some homes had lead levels that equated to toxic waste.
While the level of lead in Flint’s water supply has been significantly reduced since the City switched back to water delivered from Lake Huron by the Great Lakes Water Authority in October 2015, residents are still being urged to drink only filtered water.
Bids were accepted last Friday to replace service lines to 6,000 Flint homes in 2017, building on the nearly 800 lines that have been replaced so far. McDaniel cited research by Mackenzie L. Davis, Michigan State University emeritus professor of environmental engineering, which concluded copper was the best material for the replacement pipes because it’s long-lasting and impermeable, so outside chemicals such as petroleum products spilled on nearby streets or insecticides and fertilizers spread on yards can’t contaminate the water system.
The Copper Development Association (CDA) has helped the City of Flint acquire nearly 200,000 feet of copper piping for the next phase of the FAST Start program due to start in April. The copper industry’s assistance will save the city and state potentially $1 million.
“The copper industry commends the City of Flint for doing its research and due diligence when it comes to selecting the right replacement material for their critical water infrastructure,” said Andy Kireta, CDA vice president. “Copper piping provides a safe, reliable and long-lasting solution for the residents of Flint. This is a long-term investment that will positively affect generations to come.”
McDaniel said he’s intent on not only helping fix Flint’s aging and damaged water system, but to do so in a way that helps the City create the tools needed to rebound from the crisis.
“It’s incredibly important to build resilience into the water system, so Flint will have the capacity to bounce back from this and any future crises,” said McDaniel, Michigan’s former Homeland Security director. “Every community in the country potentially faces some type of disruptive event. Planning and preparation are integral to recovery, even for an event as unexpected as the man-made drinking water crisis that occurred in Flint.”
While the federal government has supplied enough money to replace lines leading to 6,000 homes this year, McDaniel says it will take nearly $70 million more to finish the pipe replacements by the end of 2019. He noted that none of that money has been set aside by the state or federal governments so far.
Mayor Weaver encouraged those participating in the conference to get out and enjoy some of Flint’s many educational, cultural and historic attractions. She also urged them to take home lessons from what Flint has gone through.
“It’s simply unacceptable that Flint residents still must rely on bottled water and water filters just to drink a glass of water or safely cook a meal nearly three years after this crisis began,” she said. “No other city ― no other people ― should have to go through what Flint and its residents have had to endure.
“But if we get the resources to fix and rebuild Flint, if we restore social justice and economic equity, Flint can be the beginning of a ‘Lead Free America.’ And that will be a wonderful reflection of what our nation, and our people, should be about in these great United States.”