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Flint to get bids this week on replacing hundreds of lead pipes

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

This week, bids are due on contracts to start replacing Flint’s lead service lines.

But there are concerns about what’s in the contracts.

Service lines are a prime source for lead leeching into the city’s drinking water.  However, to date, the city of Flint has only unearthed 33 lead service lines. 

Mayor Karen Weaver’s Fast Start program is set to get back up to speed this week.  The city is using $2 million dollars from the state to pay for the next round of excavations. 

Contractors have until Thursday to submit their bids to replace up to 500 service lines in three sections of the city.  The specific locations were chosen based on likelihood that the service lines in those neighborhoods contain lead and that there are at-risk populations living there.

Several potential contractors expressed reservations about what the city had put into the contract language during a mandatory bidders meeting last week.

On Friday, the contract became a subject of discussion at a meeting of the governor’s Flint Water Interagency Coordinating Committee, or FWICC.   The FWICC oversees the state and local response to the Flint water crisis.

Jim Koski is a former Saginaw County drain commissioner, who sits on FWICC panel.

He says he’s handled similar contracts in the past and he doesn’t like how the city’s handling this one. 

“In a nutshell, my concern is the way it’s put together, it’s going to cost way more than it should,” says Koski.  He says the contract is vague in spots and shouldn’t ask contractors to provide their own supplies.

City officials are confident the next round of service line removals will go well.

One official expects this next round will take about 60 to 90 days to complete. 

By that time, the city of Flint should have another $25 million from the state to expand its service line replacement program.   City officials are grateful for the money, but say more than double that is needed to replace all the suspected lead and galvanized service lines in the city. 

What to replace the service lines with is another question that may be answered this week.

In February, a California company offered to give the city of Flint all the plastic pipes it would need, for free, to replace all the city’s service lines. City officials have been consulting with experts on whether plastic pipes would be an adequate replacement.

A recommendation on whether to use plastic pipes may come this week.  

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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