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Flint to start digging up lead pipes; gov announces plan to find the pipes

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Next week, crews will start digging up lead pipes in Flint.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver says a training exercise will take place next week for city crews to learn how to remove lead service lines. 

It’s a step in a process that may end with replacing thousands of lead pipes. 

“I will not accept anything less than full removal of all lead pipes from our water system,” Mayor Weaver said in a written statement. “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.”

Gov. Rick Snyder has been one of the leading figures calling for re-establishing the bio-film inside Flint’s pipes before moving ahead with wholesale replacement of the city’s service lines. 

But in Flint today, Snyder told reporters replacing lead pipes is an objective. 

But Governor Snyder says he’s “concerned” about the timing of Flint’s plan to start removing lead service lines. His office just hired a company to identify all the city’s lead pipes so they can be removed in an orderly fashion. That study may take a month.

Despite some differences, the governor insists he and the mayor are working together.

“Her goal is to get pipes replaced. Well, that’s one of my goals, but that’s one of the steps of this larger process,” says Snyder. 

Researchers discovered last year that Flint’s drinking water was contaminated with lead from old decaying pipes. The problem has been linked to the city’s switch to the Flint River as its tap water source. The city switched back to Detroit water last fall, but the damage has been done.

Due to the city’s poor recordkeeping, it’s unclear how many lead service lines exist in the city and where they may be.

The legislature is considering a $25 million appropriate to repair Flint’s water system. But city officials peg the cost of just removing the lead service lines at $55 million.  

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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