By Tom Travis
“From EGLE’s perspective and my own perspective, we know that trust was broken. We know that what we need to do is to deliver results to the people of the City of Flint,” said Liesl Clark, director of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE).
Clark made these comments at a press conference Thursday on the grounds of the Flint Water Plant, 4500 N. Dort Hwy. to announce the lowest lead levels in the city’s drinking water since the crisis began.
Five-year milestone reached – “We won’t stop until the job is done” — Mayor Sheldon Neeley
Flint has reached “a five-year milestone” by meeting drinking water standards for lead and “recording its lowest lead levels since 2016,” Mayor Sheldon Neeley and Clark announced. Neeley added, “We won’t stop until the job is done.”
“Let me be clear: no amount of lead is safe. EGLE is committed to Flint to make their water among the safest and most reliable in the nation,” Clark said.
Clark said the City of Flint is testing (lead) at three parts-per-billion(ppb), in the 90th percentile. The federal regulation lead level is 15 ppb.
Neeley added, “We won’t stop until the job is completely done. We have work to do with lead line replacement and making sure we have potable water that our residents can feel safe to drink. It’s a long journey but we’re getting there, every single day.”
“These measurements were made using Michigan’s stricter measuring protocols that detect possible lead exposure from the service line as well as immediately in the home,” she stated.
The City collected 71 samples, of which 51 were from so called “Tier One” sites (single family residences) and 12 samples from Tier Two sites (multi-family residences, apartment buildings or businesses). The Flint samples were in compliance with the LCR (Lead and Copper Rule) Michigan law passed in 2018.
“The purpose of the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) is to protect public health by minimizing lead and copper levels in drinking water,” according to the EGLE website. “Lead and copper enter drinking water mainly from corrosion of lead and copper containing plumbing materials. The rule establishes action levels (AL) for lead and copper based on a 90th percentile level of tap water samples.”
“LCR monitoring was held to a higher standard than any city in the State. To be included in the final calculation the service line material had to be physically confirmed to have lead,” Clark explained.
“Flint’s on track to complete the effort to eliminate lead from service lines later this year as part of a $97 million effort,” Clark stated. She added that as of April 9, 2021 Flint had completed 26,819 excavations and replaced 9,941 service lines that were found to be lead.
“More than 90% of the lead and galvanized steel service lines have already been removed and replaced with 9,912 copper service lines. In addition, 16,838 existing lines have been identified as being constructed with copper pipe so replacement was not necessary,” she said.
Former Mayor Karen Weaver’s administration launched the FAST Start pipe replacement project in March 2016, funded by $100 million from the federal Water Infrastructure Improvement for the Nation (WIIN) Act.
The project continued with Mayor Neeley’s administration in the Fall of 2019. Then the project was waylaid by the coronavirus pandemic. The FAST Start project resumed in June 2020, as reported by EVM in April 2021.
Opt-in period for service line replacement extended to Friday, July 23
The City of Flint has extended the opt-in period allowing residents to have their service lines checked and replaced to this Friday, July 23. Clark urged residents to participate in the opt-in period.
Anticipated developments in the service line replacement
Referencing the five-year milestone, Clark listed future anticipated announcements forthcoming: “We expect to announce the start-up of a safe, reliable second pipeline to Lake Huron…later this year we expect to see the completion of the water service line replacement program, and in the Fall we expect to see the completion of several other projects that will help modernize the water treatment system and distribution system.”
Flint has logged ten consecutive monitoring periods, spanning five consecutive years of lead and copper results that have consistently been below the EPA’s 15 ppb action level for lead. These results also meet future standards in Michigan that will reduce the action level to 12 ppb. According to the EGLE website a “monitoring period” is every six months from January to June and July to December.
$6 million chemical feed building will receive 500,000 gallons of water per day – DPW director
Thursday’s press conference took place in front of a new $6 million Chemical Feed building that Michael Brown, director of the city’s Department of Public Works (DPW), said is expected to be “fully operational by the end of the year.”
DPW Director Brown explained that the new water feed filtration building will be “taking about 500,000 gallons a day” from the Genesee County Drain Commission water treatment plant (GCDC) beginning August 2021.
“In Sept. we will change that over to taking the full amount of water through the plant to be able to isolate the GLWA [Great Lakes Water Authority — the source of Flint water] so we can do some repair on valves on the GLWA side. We hope that this plant will be up and running by the end of this year,” he said.
Brown explained, as he conducted a tour for the media through the new chemical feed plant, that the pipeline from Lake Huron feeds into the new facility below the building.
Scott Dungee, water plant supervisor, was invited to the podium by the Mayor and stated, “This building is the new chemical feed building to take the place of the temporary building where we feed chemicals [into the drinking water].
Dungee said he has worked at the Flint Water Plant since 1997 and has been the supervisor since November 2020. He explained the new building will house “modern, fully automated pumps that can be controlled by monitoring systems in the old building. The old pumps are all manual and it takes a lot of man hours to operate them. The automated pumps can respond much quicker to changes in the water.”
EVM Managing Editor Tom Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.