State, Flint must replace lead pipes in 3 years - WNEM TV 5

State, Flint must replace lead pipes in 3 years

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A judge has ordered the state of Michigan and city of Flint must replace the city’s lead pipes within three years.

The move was approved by a federal judge as a result of a settlement agreement following a lawsuit filed in response to the Flint water crisis.

“This hard-fought victory means safer water for Flint. For the first time, there will be an enforceable commitment to get the lead pipes out of the ground. The people of Flint are owed at least this much,” said Dimple Chaudhary, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and lead counsel in the case Concerned Pastors for Social Action v. Khouri.

Plaintiffs in the case Concerned Pastors for Social Action v. Khouri are Concerned Pastors for Social Action, Flint resident Melissa Mays, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the ACLU of Michigan.

The agreement will require the federal and state governments to provide nearly $100 million to the City of Flint to replace the lead and galvanized-steel service lines at 18,000 homes.

It also requires the state to maintain the door-to-door water filter installation and education program, to monitor Flint’s tap water for lead and to continue to make bottled water available to the city’s residents, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“Concerned Pastors brought this lawsuit to heal the damage to the community from both the lead in our water and government indifference, and to take a stand for what is right for the people of Flint. The water issue must be resolved before we can make Flint thrive again, and I believe this resolution offers a path to a healthier, less traumatic future for everyone in Flint,” said Pastor Allen Overton, of the Concerned Pastors for Social Action. “I remain hopeful that we have time to restore Flint to a place where dreams are made and hope stays alive,” said Overton.

The agreement includes:

  • The State to provide $97 million to the City of Flint for replacement of lead and galvanized steel pipes at no cost to Flint residents; $47 million will come directly from Michigan state funding sources; and $50 million will come from federal and state funding directed to Flint by Congress;
  • The City to conduct the pipe replacements within three years;
  • The State to expand and maintain its program for filter installation and education, including by conducting door-to-door visits to residents’ homes through December 2018;
  • The State to fund a pair of extensive tap water monitoring programs, beyond what is legally required under federal law, to test hundreds of homes in Flint. All testing data will be made available to the public, including here
  • The State to guarantee bottled water availability at distribution centers until at least September 1, 2017 and delivery through the 2-1-1 helpline to homebound residents until at least July 1, 2017;  
  • The State to guarantee funding for seven existing health and medical programs designed to mitigate the effects of lead exposure for Flint residents.

Melissa Mays, a plaintiff in the case said,  “This is a win for the people of Flint. When the government fails to uphold democracy, and protect our rights to clean water, we have to stand up and fight. The greatest lesson I’ve learned from Flint’s water crisis is that change only happens when you get up and make your voice heard.”

The court will enforce the agreement to make sure all obligations are being met.

Pastor Alfred Harris of the Concerned Pastors for Social Action, said, "We are very happy that on the back end of the situation, welfare of the citizens of Flint was a top priority, unlike at the front end of the situation."

Pipes at more than 700 Flint homes have been replaced so far.

Click here for a timeline of events in the Flint water crisis

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver released the following statement on the settlement: 

“I am happy. This agreement is good for the people of Flint. We as city officials want what’s right for the citizens and the City of Flint as we work to recover from the man-made water disaster, and this settlement is another step in the right direction. While we are very appreciative of the funds appropriated by Congress we knew it still wasn’t enough to replace all of the lead-tainted service lines in Flint, a process that is already underway through my FAST Start program. This agreement assures us that the city will receive the additional funds needed, over and above the $100 million from the federal government, to get the job done.

The settlement also identifies several health services and programs that will continue being provided to Flint residents such as, expanded Medicaid services for pregnant women and children under 21 through March 2021. It also calls for tap water in Flint to be monitored by an “independent monitor” who will collect samples in compliance with the lead and copper rule for the next three years, which will be paid for by the state.

The agreement lays out the conditions for the continued operation of the Point of Distribution sites and the Community Outreach Resident Education (CORE) program. As the pipe replacement effort continues with a plan to replace an estimated 18,000 pipes by the end of 2019, Flint residents must have water filters that are properly installed and maintained and this is the key objective of the CORE workers.

By being included in this settlement, these terms of agreement are now enforceable by court order and that is a good thing. We will continue to work with all concerned parties to move the City of Flint forward and protect the health and safety of the citizens of Flint.”

“This settlement continues the state’s commitment to providing the resources necessary for the residents of Flint to recover from the crisis, including health care services, nutritional food and replacement of lead service lines throughout the city,” Gov. Rick Snyder said of the outcome. “There was a great deal of hard work that went into this comprehensive solution, and I want to thank everyone who came together to agree on solutions that will assist residents for years to come.

Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich released this statement:

I’ve said it all along—the state needs to make sure the residents of Flint are protected. No more political games from the state. I want to thank the Concerned Pastors for Social Action, Melissa Mays and all those who worked to hold the state accountable for its failures in Flint.

However, Flint residents are not ready to celebrate just yet.

"I keep hearing that money is coming in, but I don't see any change," said Mikayla Mitchell, Flint resident.

State Rep. Sheldon Neeley said the ruling was a small victory in a battle that is far from over.

"We still are drinking bottled water. We're still very concerned about the quality of our water that comes from our tap for bathing, but also for cooking. So the overall feeling for Flint residents is when is the real relief going to happen," Neeley said.

Inside Flint's La Familia restaurant, the owners said they are happy to hear money is coming to help the city and customers they serve.

Rose Maldonado, who works at the restaurant, said relief for them means no longer having to cook using large drums of water.

"We won't have to buy the five gallon waters that we buy every week, that we have delivered here every single Friday to provide for what we cook and for our customers to stay safe," Maldonado said.

To read a summary of the settlement click here.

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