Flint Enters Final Stage of Replacing Lead Pipes, Showing the Way for National Infrastructure Action

July 23 is the Final Deadline for Residents To Consent for Free Pipe Replacement

FLINT, MI – Flint’s lead water pipe removal program has entered its final stages, as city officials set a final deadline of July 23 for residents to consent to get their lead water pipes replaced for free. The pipe replacement program was established by a 2017 court order issued in a landmark citizen suit brought on behalf of Flint residents to address the massive lead contamination of the city’s drinking water. The water crisis provided the nation and the world a glimpse into the frailty of aging water infrastructure in Flint and beyond. 

So far, more than 27,000 pipes  have been excavated to determine whether they are lead, and 10,000 lead pipes replaced. It is estimated that an additional 1,400 homes are eligible for the program. To participate in the program, residents must give the city consent to do the work through a form available on the City’s website. While consent must be provided by July 23, completing the work will likely extend through the end of this year. 

“The people of Flint changed this country, making it clear that no one should be poisoned by lead in the drinking water coming out of their kitchen sink,” said Melissa Mays, one of the plaintiffs in the federal drinking water case and Operations Manager of Flint Rising. “We are so close to removing all the lead pipes in Flint, it’s time to finish what we started.” 

“Flint has become a model for the nation, as President Biden advocates for every town and city to remove its lead pipes,” said Pastor Allen C. Overton of Concerned Pastors for Social Action, one of the plaintiffs in the federal drinking water case. “Flint residents are strong, resilient, and determined to protect their families. I could not be more proud of my community and my hometown of Flint.” 

“Flint’s brave residents have set in motion a fight for the right to safe drinking water that is so righteous and powerful, President Biden is proposing to remove every lead water pipe in America through the American Jobs Plan,” said Erik D. Olson, senior strategic director for health at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). “Flint’s action to replace the vast majority of its lead water pipes within four years could help pave the way to a national requirement to replace the millions of lead pipes across the country within in the next decade.” 

On April 25, 2014, officials looking to save money switched Flint, Michigan’s drinking water supply, and then failed to treat the highly corrosive water properly, unleashing massive lead contamination of the city’s drinking water. The entire city of roughly 100,000, including 9,000 children, was exposed to lead, a neurotoxin dangerous in any amount. 

Flint’s lead pipe water settlement of 2017 is the result of a lawsuit Concerned Pastors for Social Action v. Khouri filed by Concerned Pastors for Social Action, Flint resident Melissa Mays, NRDC and the ACLU of Michigan. The agreement secured clear, specific steps the City must take to address the water crisis in Flint. It requires the state of Michigan to pay for and the city to complete thousands of lead service line replacements in Flint at no cost to Flint residents. The settlement agreement also required the state to provide filters and filter-installation services to residents; offers tap water monitoring above and beyond the requirements of federal regulations; and requires the city, state, and MDEQ to comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Emergency Administrative Order.

Additional Resources:

City of Flint consent form:  https://www.cityofflint.com/wp-content/uploads/Consent-Form-Notification-Letter-mlr-8.13.2020.pdf 

President Biden’s Lead Service Line replacement program: https://www.nrdcactionfund.org/bidens-plan-to-get-the-lead-out-of-our-water-and-childrens-bodies/

NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

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