Flint Settlement: $100M for Service Lines


The state of Michigan and the city of Flint have agreed to a settlement that will guarantee the replacement of lead or galvanized service lines to 18,000 homes in the city in less than three years.

The settlement, filed in the U.S. District Court in Detroit Monday (March 27), marks the first time the city and state have been held legally responsible for making the updates, many of which the governments had made informal commitments to previously.

It was expected to be approved by Judge David M. Lawson Tuesday afternoon (March  28).

The settlement comes as the result of a suit filed last year by Concerned Pastors for Social Action, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Michigan ACLU and resident Melissa Mays. Some of the funding for the fixes will come from the federal government via the water infrastructure bill passed by Congress last fall.

Settlement Details

According to reports, the state is required to allocate $87 million for the replacement of lead and galvanized-steel service lines, both of which are known to increase the risk for lead in drinking water. The state must also earmark $10 million in additional funds in case the cost of the pipe replacement is greater than expected.

According to MLive, at least $47 million of the $87 million expenditure is required to be funded by means other than the federal bill passed last year to aid Flint.

Flint River
By Blueskiesfalling (Connor Coyne) / Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

The water troubles in Flint began in April 2014, when the city chose to switch from nearby Detroit’s water supply to using its own Flint River.

The settlement also requires the state to bankroll third-party testing of homes for lead for three years, and allows the state to begin to shut down up to three bottled-water distribution sites in May, assuming that lead levels stay under an established permissible level in the area, and pickups at the sites drop below a given level. Other distribution sites would be shut down on a gradual schedule.

The plaintiffs had sought to require door-to-door delivery of water, but the settlement does not include that concession by the state and city.

Flint Crisis Background

The water troubles in Flint began in April 2014, when the city chose to switch from nearby Detroit’s water supply to using its own Flint River, as a temporary fix until the new KWA Pipeline, from Lake Huron, could be completed. Water from the river, not treated with anticorrosives, proceeded to corrode Flint’s aging pipes, leading to lead in the city’s drinking water and a resulting public health crisis.

A number of state and local officials have faced felony charges in connection with their handling of the Flint crisis. State emergency managers and Flint public works officials have been accused of diverting funds toward the KWA pipeline project illegally, and encouraging the use of the Flint River as the city’s  water source despite evidence of issue’s with the city’s facilities.

The crisis also brought to light issues within the Environmental Protection Agency. An internal investigation last year concluded that the EPA’s Region 5 office had the authority and reason to issue an emergency order on Flint’s drinking water in June 2015, but did not do so until January 2016 due to confusion over jurisdiction.


Tagged categories: Corrosion; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Galvanized steel; Health & Safety; Health and safety; North America; potable water

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