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Flint missing deadline to replace all lead service lines

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

The City of Flint will miss a deadline to replace lead pipes connecting homes and businesses to city water mains.

The service lines were a major source of lead in Flint’s drinking water during the city’s water crisis.

Under a 2017 legal settlement, the city agreed to completely replace all lead and galvanized service lines. The city received several extensions to get the work done. But as of Friday’s deadline, city officials estimate only about 95% have been replaced.

That angers Flint water activist Melissa Mays. Mays’s group Flint Rising, along with the Natural Resources Defense Council, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Concerned Pastors for Social Action sued the city in 2016.

“There...just doesn’t seem to be any kind of motivation to finish the lead service line replacement program and to finish it right. And that’s just shocking and infuriating and disgusting to me,” said Mays.

Mayor Sheldon Neeley says Flint is in a good position to thoroughly complete lead line excavations and restorations despite obstacles.

“We have overcome immense challenges, from the COVID-19 pandemic, to a bad contractor, to multiple delays by City Council. Thousands of addresses have been added through litigation, and we are still making good progress towards completion,” Neeley said in a written statement.

City officials say adding to the problem are property owners who have refused to allow city crews to inspect their service lines to determine if they need to be replaced.

But activists complain the city has missed as many as 1,400 properties.

As the deadline passes, the city of Flint may find itself back in court over the issue.

“The City agreed to complete all replacements and excavations by September 30, and failing to meet this court-ordered deadline would be a significant violation of both the City’s commitments and the Court’s order. We are considering all our options to make sure the City of Flint fully replaces the remaining lead pipes as quickly as possible,” said Addie Rolnick, a lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

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.