After almost four years of an ongoing water crisis, Flint, Michigan is finally going to replace pipes contaminated with lead. The city and state finally agreed in a lawsuit brought on my residents to pay for the project, replacing around 18,000 lead water lines by 2020. Michigan will foot the entire bill with state and federal funds. The settlement says that the state will budget $87 million for the project and set aside an extra $10 million just in case.
On Tuesday, the settlement is going to U.S. District Judge David Larson for approval, but given the long struggle for residents to get safe water in their town, it will likely be approved.
To be fair, Flint was already digging up and replacing some 700 water pipes, and the work was expected to be ongoing. The settlement though should put residents at ease, since it wasn’t clear who was going to pay for all of this work.
But it’s still really frustrating for some residents. Resident Reneta Richard, a 38-year-old teacher told the Associated Press that the settlement just “compiles the despair that I see and feel,” since it’s still going to be years before all of the pipes are replaced. To be fair, Richard still has to heat bottled water for kitchen use because hot tap water damages the filters that the city has installed in residents’ home. She said:
“When I see someone on TV just turn on the water and wash their hands — I haven’t been able to do that for years.”
It’s about time that the state settled this suit with residents. Yes, it’s expensive and a lot of work, but Flint has been without clean water since 2014 when the city decided to switch water sources in 2014 to save money. Instead of using Detroit’s municipal water service, the city started to get water from the Flint River. But they didn’t treat it properly, which led the iron and lead pipes to corrode, exposing residents to lead contamination and other chemicals. This settlement, almost $97 million of work, is in addition to another $100 million the Environmental Protection Agency earmarked for the city late last year under the Obama administration.
Until all the pipes are replaced, the state will still have to deliver bottled water to residents under the deal and make sure that homes are equipped with water filters, and that they’re properly installed. The people of Flint have dealt with a lot in the past few years. Hopefully all this work can be done quicker than expected so people can move on.