EPA makes $100 million grant for Flint official

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded a $100 million grant to the City of Flint, Mich., to help the community continue to improve the quality of its drinking water system after it was contaminated with excessive lead levels in 2014 resulting a nationally-publicized crisis.

In December, President Barack Obama signed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act of 2016, enabling Flint to accelerate and expand its work to replace lead service lines and make other critical infrastructure improvements. The $100 million grant comes under the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and will address lead or other contaminants in drinking water, including repair and replacement of lead service lines and public water system infrastructure.

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EPA’s $100 million grant will help to remove lead or other contaminants in drinking water, as well as repairs and replacement of lead service lines and public water system infrastructure.

“I appreciate the EPA approving this funding to assist with Flint’s recovery,” Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said. “Combined with the nearly $250 million in state funding already allocated, this will help keep Flint on a solid path forward. It’s great to see federal, state and local partners continuing to work together to help with infrastructure upgrades and pipe replacements for the people of Flint.”

The news follows a flurry of uncertainty in recent weeks regarding water and wastewater infrastructure funding. The White House recently released its FY2018 budget proposal, which includes a 31 percent reduction in funding for the EPA, the reduction of EPA staff by 3,200 positions and the elimination of more than 50 EPA programs. However, under President Trump’s budget, the State Revolving Fund — under which many water and sewer improvement projects are funded — would remain fully funded. Meanwhile, the president has called on Congress to support a $1 trillion infrastructure spending plan that would incorporate both public and private capital.

“The people of Flint and all Americans deserve a more responsive federal government,” added EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “EPA will especially focus on helping Michigan improve Flint’s water infrastructure as part of our larger goal of improving America’s water infrastructure.”

Flint’s drinking water supply was first contaminated with lead starting in April 2014 when the city, while under the control of state-appointed emergency management. To contend with a funding shortfall, the city switched the source of supply from Lake Huron water supplied by the City of Detroit to Flint River water treated at Flint’s city treatment plant. Officials at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality have since acknowledged mistakes were made when they failed to require the needed corrosion control chemicals to be added to the water.

As a result, lead leached from pipes and fixtures into the drinking water. Although the city switched back to Detroit water in October 2015, the potential for harm continued has continued due to damage done to Flint’s water distribution system. More recently, the city has pursued affordable programs to replace lead service lines.

“We are excited and very grateful to receive these much-needed funds,” said Flint Mayor Karen Weaver. “The City of Flint being awarded a grant of this magnitude in such a critical time of need will be a huge benefit. As we prepare to start the next phase of the FAST Start pipe replacement program, these funds will give us what we need to reach our goal of replacing 6,000 pipes this year and make other needed infrastructure improvements. We look forward to the continued support of the EPA and federal government.”

In January 2017, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality reported that lead levels in the city’s water system tested below the federal limit after a six-month study. But later that month, a $722 million class action lawsuit was filed against the U.S. EPA on behalf of more than 1,700 residents impacted by the water crisis.

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