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lead pipes

construction workers
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Public and political pressure from the Flint water crisis is beginning to shape new, tougher water regulations in Michigan - and other states are taking notice.

If passed, they’d be the strongest such measures in the country.

Two years ago, when news broke about the Flint water crisis, lots of people wondered if Michigan’s governor would resign. That’s because emails show Rick Snyder’s top aides had concerns about Flint’s water long before pediatricians and scientists proved there was a huge problem.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

The man heading Flint’s lead pipe replacement program has a new contract.

The council voted 9-0 on a reconsideration vote during a special meeting Thursday. The council deadlocked 4-4 August 14 on extending a personal services contract for Mike McDaniel.

McDaniel has been the program director of the Fast Start program that has replaced more than 3,000 services lines during the past year. However, he’s been working without a contract since April.    

old faucet
Gene Selkov / Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

We’ve heard a lot about lead service lines after the Flint water crisis. But that’s not the only way lead can get into your drinking water.

Lead pipes
Mitch Barrie / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) - More than 200 lead water pipes will be removed from a southwest Michigan city this summer. MLive (http://bit.ly/2oU9UII ) reports the Kalamazoo City Commission approved a nearly $850,000 construction contract on Monday with Rieth-Riley Construction Co. to replace the lines.

The city's 2017 Water Capital Improvement Budget will fund the service line replacement project. Public Services Director James Baker says Kalamazoo plans to replace almost 500 lead service lines during the 2017 construction season. Baker says on average the city has removed 100 lead pipes per year. 

sign that says flint
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A major lawsuit over the Flint water crisis has been settled. Under the deal, the state will pay for the replacement of 18,000 lead service lines. This Week in Michigan Politics, Morning Edition host Doug Tribou and senior news analyst Jack Lessenberry talk about why the deal might set a precedent for other cities.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The hunt is on for lead pipes in Detroit.

Flint officials still don’t know where all the city’s lead service lines are. That’s because the building records were in horrible shape.

A crew replacing a lead service line in Flint.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Update: 9/28/2016 2:50 p.m.

There appears to be a compromise on funding for Flint that would avoid a potential partial shutdown of the government.  House Republicans say they will allow a vote on U.S. Representative Dan Kildee's amendment to the Water Resources Development Act, providing $170 million to help Flint deal with a lead-tainted water system.

U.S. Senator Gary issued the following statement:

“The people of Flint have waited far too long for Congress to act and finally help put them on the road to recovery. House Republican leadership refused to even go on record supporting Flint as recently as Monday, and I am pleased that under pressure from Senate and House Democrats they are now indicating some willingness to help Flint. I will continue pushing to pass our carefully crafted, fully paid-for agreement that passed the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support as part of WRDA or another legislative vehicle. I have said that Congress can and should help both flooding victims and Flint residents, and I cannot support a government funding bill that prioritizes one state’s emergency over another’s.”

9/27/16

Democrats in the U.S. Senate voted against a bill to keep the federal government funded through December 9, sending the bill to defeat.

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow said the bill included $500 million to help victims of flooding in Louisiana, while ignoring residents of Flint, whose water was tainted with lead two years ago.  

Rex Babiera / Flicker https://flic.kr/p/8HGMDv

In Flint, we know lead has leached from water pipes, called service lines. But it’s not as clear how much the plumbing in people’s homes is contributing to the problem.

“There were no lead service lines to any of the schools and yet there was a significant amount of lead in a number of the samples,” said George Krisztian, who’s coordinating the state’s response in Flint for Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality.

“So the question was, 'OK, where is the lead coming from?” Krisztian recalls.

A lead service line removed from a Flint home. Lead service lines were useful because the metal is flexible and can bend - making installation easier.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

There are several potential sources of lead in your home plumbing that can get into your drinking water.

  • The service line connecting the water main to your house could be made out of lead
  • The solder in your plumbing could have lead in it
  • And older brass faucets and valves can contain lead

So how do you figure out what you have in your house?

This question has been nagging at me for some time. At our house, we drink the water straight from the tap.

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint.
Michigan Municipal League / dan kildee

The Washington, D.C. and Flint offices of U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., are nearly 600 miles apart. But lead-tainted water has recently been a problem in both. 

Monday, the Architect of the Capitol's office sent an eye-opening advisory to staffers in the D.C. building housing Kildee's office.

"This week, the AOC received results within the Cannon House Office Building that indicate lead levels in drinking water sources are slightly above the EPA standard," wrote William Weidemeyer, the House Office Buildings superintendent. 

Virginia Tech

The head of Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality says the agency will be taking a much closer look at how cities across the state are testing for lead in water this summer.

MDEQ interim Director Keith Creagh says his agency will ask the state’s 1,400 water systems tough questions about how and where they’re testing for lead.

Creagh says DEQ will ask cities to prove they’re testing for lead at the right homes, particularly those with lead service lines.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

A legislative panel investigating the Flint water crisis will hear a report tomorrow about how serious the problem might be in the rest of the state.

The Michigan Infrastructure & Transportation Association and Public Sector Consultants released a report last month on Michigan’s water infrastructure. 

Mike Nystrom with MITA says the report found Michigan is up to a half billion dollars short annually of what it should spend on water infrastructure.

Flint pipe-removal effort working through early delays

Apr 1, 2016
Flint Mayor Weaver, Lansing Mayor Bernaro, and Ret. Brig. Gen. Michael McDaniel stand next to the lead pipe.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Crews working to replace Flint's lead water lines have encountered some delays.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver's goal for the first 30 days of work was to replace lead lines for 30 homes. As of Friday morning, crews had finished work on only 19.

Michael McDaniel, former National Guard Brigadier General and professor at Western Michigan University's law school, is heading the removal effort, called the Fast Start initiative.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow says she’s hopeful that the U.S. Senate will soon take up a bill with tens of millions of dollars for Flint.

The legislation has more than $100 million earmarked for fixing Flint’s water system and added health care for people exposed to lead in their tap water.

But a Republican senator is holding up the bill. Utah Senator Mike Lee says the state of Michigan should first spend its own money to fix Flint’s water issues, before the federal government should get involved. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The city of Flint has a better picture of where all its aging lead water service lines are.  But that picture is still incomplete.

Service lines connect city water mains to homes and businesses.  

The city’s failure to properly treat water pumped from the Flint River over an 18 month period damaged many pipes.  As a result, some have been leaching lead into the city’s drinking water.  

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Chanting “No pipes, no peace," hundreds of people marched on Flint’s water plant today.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson led the marchers as they protested the city’s ongoing drinking water crisis.

Flint’s drinking water became contaminated with lead after an ill-fated decision to switch the city’s tap water source to the Flint River. Various agencies failed to ensure the water was properly treated to reduce its corrosiveness. The corrosive river water damaged aging lead pipes and lead solder, which has been leaching into the drinking water ever since.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Next week, crews will start digging up lead pipes in Flint.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver says a training exercise will take place next week for city crews to learn how to remove lead service lines. 

It’s a step in a process that may end with replacing thousands of lead pipes.