Motion filed against Flint, mayor for lead pipe replacement

City of Flint Municipal Center
City of Flint Municipal Center(WNEM)
Published: May. 26, 2023 at 3:01 PM EDT
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FLINT, Mich. (WNEM) - A motion was filed on Friday to hold the city of Flint and Mayor Sheldon Neeley in contempt for failing to reach certain milestones in its lead pipe replacement program.

Those milestones were from a February 2023 federal court order.

Plaintiffs in the Concerned Pastors for Social Action v. Khouri filed five motions to enforce the 2017 settlement agreement “due to persistent and ongoing violations by the city of Flint,” the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) said.

“We’re approaching a decade without safe drinking water in Flint; that’s a lifetime for many of Flint’s children. It’s unacceptable that, even after we’ve come back to court several times and won, our officials are failing to finish the job,” said Melissa Mays, one of the plaintiffs in the case and operations manager of Flint Rising.

Along with violating the February court order, the city also missed a key May 1 deadline to fill the gaps in tracking restorations, the NRDC said, adding the city doesn’t know how many addresses require property repairs.

“The city of Flint’s ongoing failures to finish the job it committed to in 2017 are causing new harm to the Flint community. Thousands of residents have waited—some for years—for the City to fix their torn-up lawns or broken sidewalks. We will continue to hold the City accountable until every Flint resident gets the benefits guaranteed to them,” said Sarah Tallman, a senior attorney with NRDC.

The motion filed on Friday asks federal Judge David M. Lawson to hold Neeley and the city of Flint in contempt and order a daily fine of $500 until the city fixes its violations.

“Flint residents deserve better. Today we are asking the court to hold the city and its mayor accountable for the obligations they agreed to, to bring clean safe drinking water back to the City of Flint, ensure that residents’ lead pipes are replaced and that their properties are restored. We will not rest until that is achieved,” said Bonsitu Kitaba, deputy legal director for the ACLU of Michigan.

In a statement to TV5, the Neely said:

It’s unfortunate that the NRDC continues to divert time and resources from Flint residents, whose municipal services would be negatively impacted by these financial hits. As a Flint resident myself, I am sternly resolved to complete the lead service line replacement project to protect the health and wellbeing of our families, our neighbors, and our community. When I took office in November 2019, I committed to rectifying a mismanaged project. As we near completion of lead service line replacements, we are focused on welcoming all residents into this process. We have overcome many obstacles to get to this point, and we will continue to persevere until the project is completed thoroughly at the highest level of quality.

The city of Flint said in 2017, after receiving $895,000, the NRDC agreed not to seek additional attorney’s fees under the terms of the settlement agreement.

Out of less than 1084 households remaining, 275 have consented to service, and contractors are scheduling and completing the work, the city said, adding that 93 households have declined service and signed forms acknowledging that they are responsible for replacing their own service lines.

After a thorough outreach process with calls and door-knocks documented at various times of day and days of the week, the remaining households have not responded to the city’s attempts to obtain consent and schedule lead service line replacement, the city said.

In 2022, the city of Flint centralized the oversight of excavation, replacement, and restoration activities under a single project management team, Rowe Engineering, according to the city. It said this month, Rowe Engineering doubled the crews working to assess all residential addresses for restoration needs.

The city now expects this assessment to be completed within a matter of weeks.

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