A Black-owned construction company in the heart of Flint, Mich., is slated to play a key role in the city’s recovery following a crippling water contamination crisis.
W.T. Stevens Construction, a minority- and woman-owned business enterprise employing about 25 full- and part-time workers, has been awarded a major contract to replace more than 18,000 lead corroded water pipes across the city. The firm was one of four companies awarded a contract but is the only Black-owned and locally based company to ink a multimillion-dollar service deal to carry out the gargantuan project, The Network Journal reported.
“This is home for me and my family, and I was not going to sit back and do nothing as a person or as a businessman,” project manager Jeff Grayer told the magazine. “This is the biggest project our company has ever done and as a result of the water line contract, our gross revenues have increased by about 70 percent.”
Grayer, a former NBA player with the Milwaukee Bucks and Golden State Warriors, works alongside his wife, Rhonda, who heads the company as vice president. The family firm has been in business for 25 years, carrying on the work and legacy of Rhonda Grayer’s father, who the company is named after.
The city of Flint suffered a contamination crisis after a state-appointed emergency manager switched the city’s water source from Detroit’s water to the contaminated Flint River, causing toxic lead to leach into the drinking water. Thousands of men, women and children became sick after they were unknowingly exposed to the lead-tainted water for months before the state notified them of the crisis. It’s been three years since the switch, but many of the city’s residents are still forced to rely on bottled and/or filtered water for drinking, cooking and bathing.
In March 2017, a federal magistrate approved a $97-million settlement mandating that the city replace thousands of contaminated lead pipes. Jeff Grayer said almost 800 waterlines have been replaced so far and 6,000 are expected to be replaced by the end of the year.
“The target is to have all 18,000 lead corroded residential pipes replaced by December 2019,” he told The Journal Network.
Rhonda Grayer rejoiced at the opportunity to rebuild Flint and help those in need.
“I will tell you that it is really exciting and the most important part of it is the opportunity to employ people who may not have had other opportunities,” she said.
More than $250 million in private and federal funds have since been earmarked to help Flint recover from the man-made crisis.