By Jan Worth-Nelson
A $170 million aid package bill for Flint passed the U.S. House Thursday and headed for the Senate where local authorities hope it will be given the same approval.
In a prepared statement, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver stated, “Today the U.S. House did something we’ve long been waiting for, by voting for a $170 million package that would help the City of Flint recover from the water crisis that has affected our city for two and a half years.
She thanked U.S. Congressman Dan Kildee for his “tireless work to obtain this money, which we’ll be able to use to remove even more lead-tainted pipes through my FAST Start initiative.” As of last week, according to city and state officials, 537 homes have had their water pipes replaced, with a goal of 1,000 by the end of this year. Estimates of how many homes will need their pipes replaced have ranged from 19,000 to more than 30,000.
Recently, Virginia Tech researcher Marc Edwards, appearing in Flint, said it was possible the pipes might not have to be replaced because the phosphate coating process seemed to be “dramatically” reducing the amount of lead in the water, and added the science of the situation suggests the water quality is moving in the right direction without pipe replacement. His comments were greeted with skepticism and resistance by many Flint residents, who have contended the only way they will feel safe again is if the entire city water infrastructure is replaced.
But on the same day, Rich Baird, the state’s designated “transformation manager” for Flint and special assistant to the governor, reiterated the state’s commitment to replace the pipes, after earlier statements from another state representative suggested an exhaustive use of filters and the pipe coating program might be enough.
“That work is going to continue until the work is done,” Baird stated to the Flint Recovery Group meeting at City Hall last week. “There will be no walking away from getting the lead out of the ground.”
Mayor Weaver has repeatedly insisted she would not rest until the pipes are replaced, while indicating the timing depends on available funding and weather conditions.
“I strongly urge the same approval [as the House] be given Friday in the U.S. Senate, where Michigan Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters have been pushing hard to pass this aid for Flint,” Weaver said. “We need this funding to help replace the city’s damaged and aging water infrastructure and to provide resources to our children who have suffered from ingesting lead-tainted water through no fault of their own.”
EVM editor Jan Worth-Nelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.