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Flint mayor says pipe replacement program ahead of schedule

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Flint leaders say the city is a year ahead of schedule in its program to find and replace lead pipes.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver says the contractors have checked more than 18,000 service lines connecting homes to city water mains. Nearly 8,000 lead and galvanized steel service lines have been replaced.    

Contractors started checking service lines as a response to the city’s water crisis. Improperly treated water damaged aging lead and galvanized pipes during Flint’s brief switch to the Flint River as the city’s primary source of drinking water. The damaged pipes leached lead particles into the tap water of the city’s residents.

The city’s program to replace lead service lines ramped up after a federal judge approved a $97 million settlement.  

“Because we have surpassed the 18,000 mark, people say what’s going on next, what are you doing? We’re going to keep going,” says Weaver.

The mayor says there’s another 10,000 to 12,000 service lines to be checked. She hopes that will be done by mid-2019.

Flint and the state remain at odds over how much the city is spending to identify which service lines are made of copper, lead, galvanized steel and other materials, and the method contractors use to find lead pipes.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is critical of the way the city has been going about finding lead service lines. An original plaintiff in the suit that brought the money for the replacement program, the NRDC says the city should be prioritizing those homes with a greater likelihood of having lead service lines.

In a press release, Dimple Chaudhary, senior attorney at NRDC, said, “The Mayor’s press conference today was misleading and inaccurate. The City is well aware that it has not fulfilled its obligations under the Concerned Pastors settlement. We fought for an agreement that requires the City to get the lead pipes out, not just dig holes."

Identifying homes with lead service lines has been complicated by the city’s poor record keeping. 

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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