Under a settlement announced Monday, 27 March, Michigan will spend an additional $47 million to resolve the Flint water crisis, which started in 2014 when a switch to a new water source for the city led to lead leaching from pipes into household water. With the $40 million previously budgeted to deal with the problem and another $10 million set aside by the state to deal with unexpected costs, a total of $97 million is available. Up to $20 million of the money will be drawn from the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act, passed last year under the Obama administration.

The Flint Water Response Team – Flickr/Michigan State Police Emergency Management

As part of the agreement, the funds will be used to replace lead and galvanized steel water lines “in and around” an estimated 18,000 homes by 2020. Additionally, residents will receive free lead testing of their water and distribution centers will provide free bottled water, water filters, and replacement cartridges for filters. Household water samples will be tested by an independent group, and the results will be posted online. Subsequently, depending on tap water quality, the agreement covers the process to begin closing the nine water distribution sites. Though recent tests show that lead levels were within acceptable bounds, residents are advised to use filters and many continue to trust bottled water over tap water. Michigan will continue to keep health programs’ funding, especially for pregnant women and children, above federal levels.

The replacement project is already underway, with more than 700 water lines replaced and work ongoing. However, until the recent agreement, residents were uncertain how to pay for the full project. Jacob Abernethy, a professor at the University of Michigan, said of the project, “There’s a lot of hurdles in the way: The City Council has to approve the locations. Every time you want to go to a home, you have to get approval from the homeowner. Contractors encounter problems they didn’t expect to find,” but with the new agreement, officials “have figured out how to make this thing go fast.”

This announcement came four days after the EPA officially awarded $100 million to Michigan to upgrade Flint’s water infrastructure, a fund that was approved and signed under Obama, but has now passed the EPA’s review process. Some of that fund goes towards the pipe-replacement project, as well as to improve Flint’s water treatment plant and make other system upgrades.

According to Harold Harrington, of the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters, there may still be problems with contaminants from household plumbing, since the settlement specifically applies to galvanized pipes that lead up to homes, not the pipes inside them which may also be compromised.

For more information on Flint’s water crisis and water insecurity see our past blog posts:

Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2016

Contaminated Tap Water Affecting Hundreds of Thousands of Californians

Sources and Further Reading:

Deal ups flow of funding for Flint water falloutDetroit News

Michigan, Flint to replace 18,000 lead-tainted water linesAP

Judge Approves $97 Million Settlement to Replace Flint’s Water LinesNPR

Thousands of water lines to be replaced in Flint settlementReuters

Michigan Allots $87 Million to Replace Flint’s Tainted Water PipesThe New York Times

EPA gives Flint $100M to help repair pipesDetroit News

Flint Water Deal To Pay $87 Million to Replace PipelinesWBUR