The city of Flint just scored another major victory in its fight for clean water.
U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Gary Peters (D-MI), alongside Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-05) announced the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent approval of $100 million in federal funds to repair Flint’s crumbling water system on Friday, March 17.
The long-awaited funds are the result of a bipartisan agreement proposed by Stabenow, Peters and Kildee that was approved by Congress and signed into law by former President Barack Obama late last year.
“Today, we have good news for families in Flint who have already waited far too long for their water system to be fixed,” Stabenow, Peters and Kildee wrote in a joint statement. “After a hard-fought victory to secure $100 million in assistance last year, the city of Flint will finally begin receiving funding to repair and replace the pipes.
“The people of Flint are strong and resilient, and we will continue to fight for the resources and assistance they need,” they continued. “It’s also past time for the state of Michigan to do everything in its power to meet its responsibilities to help the city recover from this man-made crisis.”
Of the total amount, $51.5 million has been made immediately available for Flint to begin replacing lead service lines, making distribution main improvements and putting corrosion-control methods in place, according to a press release provided to Atlanta Black Star. About $20 million of that $51.5 million will come from the required state match and the other $31.5 million from government funds.
The EPA has already approved the remaining $68.5 million in federal emergency funding for Flint, but that money won’t be made available until both the city and state undergo additional public comment and technical reviews, the press release said.
It’s been a little over three years since the Flint water crisis began, after city officials — in an effort to cut costs — switched from the Detroit water system and began drawing water from the highly contaminated Flint River in April 2014. The river’s corrosive water ate away at the city’s aging pipes, causing toxic lead to leach into the water supply. It took city/state officials almost three months to tell residents their water had been contaminated.
Securing federal funds to clean up the mess caused by state officials has been an uphill battle for the lead-tainted city, but help finally came last year after the Senate approved $170 million in funding to upgrade Flint’s water system. On top of that, the new Stabenow-Peters-Kildee agreement would provide $100 million in additional funds to repair the city’s drinking water infrastructure, as well as funding to activate a minimum of $200 million in low-interest loans to improve water infrastructure in communities in Michigan and across the nation.
“The state of Michigan, in collaboration with the city of Flint, submitted a comprehensive plan to the EPA to access these funds,” the press release stated. “This funding was only available to a community like Flint that received a federal emergency declaration by the President due to a public health threat from dangerous amounts of lead in drinking water.”
Announcement of the EPA-approved funds come just one month after Michigan’s Civil Rights Commission issued a scathing report asserting that “systemic racism” was at the root of Flint’s devastating water crisis. The board asserted that race played a major factor in the state’s sluggish response to the crisis and recommended that all state employees undergo implicit bias training.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said on Friday that his agency would “especially focus on helping Michigan improve Flint’s water infrastructure as part of its larger goal of improving America’s water infrastructure.
“The people of Flint and all Americans deserve a more responsive federal government,” he added.