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Flint pipe replacement program faces July 23 deadline

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steve carmody
/
Michigan Radio

The city of Flint’s lead service line pipe replacement program is entering a critical next few weeks.   

Flint’s water crisis prompted the city to begin inspecting the service lines connecting homes and businesses to city water mains.  Aging pipes were the primary source of lead in the city’s drinking water.

Since beginning in 2016, more than 27,000 service lines have been inspected. More than 10,000 lead and galvanized pipes have been replaced. 

Flint's experience prompted the Biden administration to make replacing lead service lines a national priority. 

But now, Flint residents face a July 23 deadline to have their service lines inspected and replaced for free.

“Completion of the lead service line replacement program is the single most important project designed to reduce the risk of lead exposure in our community,” said Mayor Sheldon Neeley.

The city estimates more than 2,500 households have not allowed work crews to check their service lines or have not cooperated with scheduling service line excavations at their homes.  Crews estimate they have possibly 200 to 300 more service lines to replace.

It’s unclear what penalty, if any, property owners would face if they don’t voluntarily take part in the lead pipe replacement program.

“We are so close to removing all the lead pipes in Flint, it’s time to finish what we started,” said Melissa Mays, one of the plaintiffs in the federal drinking water case and Operations Manager of Flint Rising.

In 2017, a federal court order issued an agreement in a landmark lawsuit brought on behalf of Flint residents to address the massive lead contamination of the city’s drinking water. The agreement secured specific steps the city must take to address the water crisis in Flint. It requires the state of Michigan to pay for and the city to complete thousands of lead service line replacements in Flint at no cost to Flint residents. 

“Flint’s action to replace the vast majority of its lead water pipes within four years could help pave the way to a national requirement to replace the millions of lead pipes across the country within in the next decade,” said Erik Olson, senior strategic director for health at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

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