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Flint faces August 1 deadline to complete pipe replacement program

Crews replace a lead water service line in Flint.
Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio

A deadline is looming for the city of Flint’s pipe replacement program.

The program began in the wake of the city’s lead tainted drinking water crisis. Lead and galvanized service lines connecting homes and businesses to Flint’s water mains were a primary source of lead in the city’s tap water.

Since beginning in earnest in 2016, the pipe replacement program has sputtered in recent years. City officials say the difficulty of convincing some property owners and residents to allow the city to inspect their service lines is a main reason for the delay. Critics have long claimed the city has failed to contact many property owners who would be willing to give their consent to an inspection.

The program has missed several deadlines set by a federal judge as part of a settlement of a lawsuit brought against the city by Flint residents. August 1 is the current deadline.

“We’re on track to complete all requirements of the settlement by August 1,” said Mayor Sheldon Neeley.

Neeley said as of Tuesday the city had less than 20 lines to complete.

But the city’s critics remain skeptical.

Lawyers from the Natural Resources Defense Council represented Flint residents in their lawsuit over the city’s pipe replacement program.

The NRDC issued a statement Tuesday:

“We certainly hope the City completes all required excavations and replacements by August 1. We haven’t seen evidence of that yet. Given the City’s track record implementing this program, we will be taking a very close look at the City’s reporting to ensure it completes all the required work.”

Mayor Neeley said the city will still need to conduct a review of the pipe replacement program.

Meanwhile, a federal judge is considering whether to hold Flint and its mayor in contempt for failing to meet other deadlines.

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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