Flint Mayor: Distribution System Fix Could Cost $1.5 Billion

State officials in Michigan last week warned residents in the City of Flint not to drink their tap water without using a filter to strain out lead. Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said it could end up costing the city as much as $1.5 billion to fix the damaged water distribution system.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder met with Weaver in Lansing last week and reportedly apologized a second time for the state?s role in the catastrophe.

?This is a situation that no one wanted would have ever happened, but it has happened,? Snyder told reporters. ?We’re taking this extremely seriously.?

According to the Detroit Free Press, Michigan?s chief medical executive, Dr. Eden Wells, said Flint residents should either use a lead filter on their drinking water taps, or drink bottled water, until further notice.?The Flint water is?safe to drink if a properly installed and a properly maintained lead filter is used, Wells said.

Wells also said all Flint children under the age of six should be blood-tested for lead as soon as possible. They can be taken to their primary care physician or the local health department, she said. Anyone in Flint who needs information about how to get their child tested should call 211.

The meeting between Snyder and Weaver followed?Snyder?s declaration of a state of emergency in Flint and Genesee County, which makes more state resources available and is a required step before the state can request federal aid.

Flint?s drinking water became contaminated with lead in 2014 after its supply source was switched from Lake Huron water provided by what was then the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department?to the more polluted and corrosive Flint River,?while the city was under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager. The cost-cutting move?resulted in a spike in lead levels in children, which causes permanent brain damage. A recent preliminary report from a task force appointed by Snyder placed most of the blame on the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and prompted the Dec. 29 resignation of DEQ Director Dan Wyant.

Although the state assisted the city in moving its source of drinking water back to Lake Huron water supplied by?Detroit in October, concerns about contamination remain because the more corrosive Flint River water damaged pipes and other infrastructure.

Snyder didn’t give a direct answer when asked about when he first learned about potential safety problems with Flint’s drinking water. He said he is waiting for the final?report of the Flint Water Advisory Task Force he appointed Oct. 21.

Weaver said she?s heard estimates for the cost of repairing Flint water infrastructure damaged by the corrosive Flint River Water that range?from a few million dollars to $1.5 billion.
But DEQ Interim Director Keith Creagh said it?s premature to?estimate what the infrastructure price tag might be.

Harvey Hollins, Snyder?s director of urban affairs and the governor?s point person on the Flint water crisis, said the administration will be making a request to the Legislature for additional funds to address the Flint crisis, but he was not prepared to say how much money will be requested.

Flint has roughly 500 miles of iron pipe that are about 75 years old, but that part of the problem is not unique to Flint, said Creagh, who said the department is also examining whether other Michigan cities have water supplies endangered by lead contamination.

A class-action lawsuit has been filed in federal court and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit has?confirmed it is investigating?the contamination of Flint’s drinking water in conjunction with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Spokeswoman Gina Balaya would not say whether the investigation is a civil or criminal matter.

Speaking at the Michigan State Police Emergency Operations Center in Lansing, Wells conceded there were missed opportunities for the state Department of Health and Human Services to act more quickly on the Flint drinking water contamination, but did not believe the problems were intentional.

Some information contained in this news story was first reported by the Detroit Free Press.?

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