Flint to replace 18,000 water lines

A federal judge recently approved a deal to replace water lines for 18,000 homes in Flint, Mich. It’s the latest in some positive news for the city’s water crisis in recent months following the approval of $100 million in funding to help Flint improve its water system. The cost for this replacement could be as high as $97 million, with federal and state governments covering the bill.

Flint Water

The replacements mark a permanent fix to overcome the disastrous decision in 2014 to draw water from a river without treating it to prevent lead contamination.

Flint will be responsible for replacing lead and galvanized-steel lateral drinking lines that bring water into homes. Pipes at more than 700 homes have been replaced so far.

The court-ordered pipe replacement is unprecedented in the United States, said lead attorney Dimple Chaudhary of the Natural Resources Defense Council. The organization sued Flint and Michigan on behalf of residents, along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan.

Flint’s water was tainted with lead for at least 18 months, starting in spring 2014. While under the control of state-appointed financial managers, the city tapped the Flint River as its water source while a new pipeline was being built to Lake Huron. But the river water wasn’t treated to reduce corrosion. As a result, lead leached from old pipes and fixtures.

Under the new agreement, pipes serving 18,000 homes will be replaced by January 2020. Michigan will continue to provide water filters, but the state can start closing free bottled water sites in Flint depending on demand and results of water quality tests.

U.S. District Judge David Lawson approved the settlement, which was the result of weeks of negotiations involving a court-appointed mediator. The judge praised Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder for suggesting negotiations after his administration lost two major court rulings on door-to-door water delivery.

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