Flint Water Crisis: State Budget Falls Short, City Still Needs $28M to Remove Lead Pipes

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The water in Flint, Michigan contains dangerous levels of lead due to unsafe, corroded pipes. Photo courtesy of Inhabitat.com
The water in Flint, Michigan contains dangerous levels of lead due to unsafe, corroded pipes. Photo courtesy of Inhabitat.com

A top adviser of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder revealed Friday that the state might be $28 million short of where it needs to be in order to remove all affected water lines that led to the contamination of the water supply in Flint, the Detroit Free Press reports.

Richard Baird, a senior aide to Snyder and leader of the state’s response team to the Flint water crisis, said the administration’s initial $27-million budget has now increased to $55 million. New inventory of the city’s lead service lines, which are responsible for seeping lead in to the water, caused the estimate to surge, according to Baird.

Per the Detroit Free Press, the Snyder administration originally requested $25 million from the state legislature to replace the water lines. The money came from a nearly $200-million aid package for Flint. Baird said the city already has $2 million from the state to replace around 500 water lines.

In an interview, Snyder’s top aide also said that the originally proposed amount probably wouldn’t be enough, considering new information regarding the cost of removing the lead lines and the galvanized lines, which are also suspected of leaching lead, the Detroit Free Press reports.

“Where we have lead lines or other non-lead lines that are unsafe, they need to be removed,” Baird said. “It’s not all about just getting the lead pipes out anymore.”

Per a draft report by Rowe Professional Services, a Flint-based engineering firm hired to locate and check the condition of high-risk lead pipes, there are about 5,200 lead service lines, along with another 5,500 lines suspected of causing issues for other reasons. Baird said the cost to replace each line could range from $2,000 up to $12,000 based on the removal of the first 30 lines.

Funds to remove Flint’s problematic water lines could come from a number of different sources, the Detroit Free Press reports. According to Baird, those options include redirecting some of the $188 million from the U.S. Treasury allocated for the removal of run-down, abandoned buildings in Michigan, and using part of the reserve fund proposed by the Senate.

House Speaker Kevin Cotter even said he was open to “additional supplemental appropriation.”

“I think we’re making incremental progress,” he told reporters before a recent meeting with Flint mayor Karen Weaver.

While still searching for money to fund the lead pipe removal in Flint, city officials are also encouraging residents to flush their pipes in an effort to heal the water system. Local, state and federal officials  launched a month-long campaign starting May 1, according to the Detroit Free Press. Flint residents are asked to run a bath tub faucet and a kitchen sink faucet full on for 5 minutes each day. The regimen needs to be repeated every day for 14 days straight, the publication also reports. The goal of the campaign is to eliminate lead particles and coat the water lines with corrosion control.

“These particles are a significant factor in Flint homes where water samples have shown very high lead concentrations,” the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said.

Per the Washington Times, the state of Michigan has vowed to pay for the extra consumption with a credit on resident’s water bills.

The Flush for Flint campaign has already printed over 5,500 fliers to be inserted into out-going water bills. Thousands more are expected to be printed in the following weeks, per the Detroit Free Press.

“Of course, our goal is to reach as many places of worship, community organizations, and businesses as possible,” said Tiffany Brown, a spokeswoman for Mission Flint, the state’s organized effort to tackle the crisis in Flint.

The city of Flint has also teamed up with the EPA to install automatic flushing devices on fire hydrants all around the city, the Detroit News reports. Mayor Weaver’s office announced the plan last month, stating that the first batch of 15 devices will be computed to release a “low, controlled flow” of water from specific hydrants, most likely during the night.

“If the flushers happen to run during the day, residents will see water flowing from the device,” the city said. “The installation and operation of the automatic flushers will have no effect on water usage by residents and businesses, or their water bills.”

 

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