On Friday, the EPA awarded Michigan $100 million to make upgrades to Flint's drinking water system. More than 20,000 water lines in Flint, Michigan, are slated to be replaced after it was discovered old water service lines were leaching lead into the city's drinking water. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder in a statement said: “I appreciate the EPA approving this funding to assist with Flint’s recovery. Combined with the nearly $250 million in state funding already allocated, this will help keep Flint on a solid path forward."
The funding, provided by the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act of 2016, or WIIN, enables Flint to accelerate and expand its work to replace lead service lines and make other critical infrastructure improvements.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Retired National Guard Brig. Gen. Michael McDaniel, who coordinates the FAST Start initiative, said he has a goal of finishing the pipe replacements for residents in 2019 by fixing service lines to 6,000 homes a year. "So far, I'd say it's been going slow," McDaniel said. "We wanted to replace 1,000 service lines in the city of Flint in 2016 and we are still working on that contract even today because we've had a fairly warm winter."
Fewer than 800 homes have had their old water lines replaced with new copper pipe. The effort has been plagued by problems that include inaccurate records on the location of pipes and the type of material used in them.
The water crisis stemmed from the state's effort to save money when the city began using water from the Flint River for in April 2014 without treating it to prevent corrosion in steel pipes. Residents' complaints about color, odor and taste were downplayed by the government until elevated levels of lead, a neurotoxin, were detected in children.
The state finally acknowledged the lead problem in October 2015, but pipes were already so corroded that simply switching the water supply to a new source didn't clear up the problem. The overall lead level in Flint's water still exceeds the federal limit, and authorities require residents to use state-provided faucet filters.
McDaniel said the next phase of the project is expected to start in late April.
The WIIN funding supplements EPA’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (SRF), a federal-state partnership. In addition to the federal funds, the State of Michigan is providing the required 20-percent match of $20 million.