Rep.: State should pay now to remove Flint’s lead pipes

Lawmaker says fall is too late to provide money for pipe replacement

Waldorf & Sons Excavating crew foreman Brian Damon holds the first lead service line removed from Flint after digging for hours on Thursday, March 3, 2016, in Flint, Mich.


LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — A special joint committee of the Michigan House and Senate continues to assess what action to take in response to the Flint water crisis — but one member says he knows part of what needs to be done and that it needs to start now.

State Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, says the state needs to start replacing lead service lines and other pipes damaged by highly corrosive water drawn from the Flint River, which is causing the lead contamination of citizens’ drinking water. Irwin said the work should start right away.

A $200 million appropriation that Gov. Rick Snyder has asked for in the coming budget might fit the bill, he says, but it won’t be available until fall and that is too long to wait.

“When the public learned about this last fall, the state were to step in and say, ‘Look, we know this is our responsibility. We know that we’ve damaged the infrastructure through bad policy and bad decision making and indifference to the concerns of the locals, and we’re going to make it right and we’re going to start right now getting shovels in the ground,'” Irwin said. “If we had done that, then I think we’re looking at maybe having this work done before this next winter. At this point, if we don’t get started until this fall, we’re asking the residents of Flint to probably wait a couple more years, which I think is way too long.”

Irwin sponsored an amendment to earlier supplemental spending that would have provided money for the project immediately. He said he is still pushing the issue with colleagues in hopes of getting a full-scale replacement underway sooner rather than later.

The City of Flint is already working to remove some of the lead service lines, but the Associated Press reports that Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said work is progressing slower than anticipated.

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