Flint Mayor Wants To Remove Lead Pipes. How Difficult Is It?

The removal of “poison pipes” is no doubt the most viable solution to Flint’s ongoing water crisis. But it’s not just Rick Snyder’s refusal that’s in the way.

Mayor Karen Weaver

Flint’s Mayor Karen Weaver called for the immediate removal of the lead pipes that first caused corrosion in the city’s drinking water in 2014.

Flint is in the middle of a health crisis after water from the Flint River damaged pipes, leaching lead into the system and putting thousands at risk for health issues. 

Weaver wants the pipe work to start where high-risk homes where pregnant women and young children reside.

"These lead pipes have got to go," she said during a news conference. “We are here to take a stand to get the lead out of Flint right now. We want to make sure we identify every place that is high risk. This is where we want to start.”

Weaver’s idea is one suggested by a majority of experts. Replacing every pipe, fixture, water heater, icemaker — anything and everything that held corrosive water  appears to be the only viable solution to the ongoing water crisis.

But funding remains a huge issue.

Earlier in January, Weaver said it could cost as much as $1.5 billion to fix the city's damaged water distribution system. In her latest proposal, she stated lead lines can be replaced for $2,000 to $3,000  an estimate modeled after the city Lansing, which spent $42 million removing some 13,000 service lines.

But while Weaver wants an aggressive approach on the removal of lead pipes, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder does not consider it an immediate priority.

When an NBC News correspondent asked Snyder last month when exactly his administration is going to remove the corroded pipes, he replied by saying that it “isn't on his short-term agenda.”

"It's a lot of work to take out pipes, to redo all of the infrastructure, that's a whole planning process," Snyder said at a press conference.

The clash in city and state policies could severely delay the recovery process.

And it’s not just funding that’s could be a major hurdle. As Wired noted, “unpoisoning” Flint’s water is going be a hard process, even if funding is easily available, because the city would have to “dig up several hundred miles of poisonous pipe buried as deep as dead bodies.”

Still, Weaver at least is trying to take a step to actually get rid of the root cause of lead poisoning unlike Snyder who is currently engaging in damage-control. His refusal to even consider the replacement of pipes as an urgent measure is certainly not helping.

Banner / Thumbnail : Reuters

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