By Patrick Barron, National News Writer
Efforts to fix service lines in Flint, Michigan have begun the third phase of replacing pipes that had been contaminating water with lead. The FAST Start initiative, which was introduced by Mayor Karen Weaver, plans to replace the lines serving almost a thousand homes by the end of this year. The ongoing initiative seeks to ultimately replace all pipes servicing the 30,000 homes in Flint.
In 2014, Flint was placed under state financial control after several years of financial hardships. According to ABC News, the city switched from Detroit’s water system to Flint River as one of their cost-saving plans. The new water source was not properly treated and lead contamination made its way into the homes of residents.
Although the city has since returned to using Detroit’s water system, the damage was done. A study of 7,000 children performed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concluded that Flint children now have a 50 percent higher risk of dangerous blood lead levels. Again according to the CDC, “Even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to affect IQ, ability to pay attention, and academic achievement.”
So far, only a small percentage of the city’s homes have received replacement water lines. 33 lines were replaced in the first phase, and the second replaced 218 more lines according to ABC News. To fund the initiative, the state is paying for Weaver’s $25 million plan for Flint.
In an effort to further this progress, Mayor Weaver says, “It’s my goal that 1,000 homes have new service lines by the end of the year, and that thousands more residents get safer, cleaner drinking water next year as we continue to ramp up the pipe replacement program…”
Unfortunately, there is still much to be done by both the state and the city in order for Flint recover from its water crisis. As reported by NPR earlier this year, researchers from Virginia Tech said that it “is unsafe to drink water without a filter.”
Beyond the labor intensive process to fix the problem, efforts have begun to find the responsible parties for the entire debacle. NPR reports that Michigan’s Attorney General, Bill Schuetter, filed criminal charges against various current and former state officials and an employee of the town. Currently, nine people have been charged in relation to the Flint water crisis.
As the efforts to repair the damage wrought by the crisis continue, we can only hope for swift restoration of their utilities, the thorough investigation of all parties which may have had a hand in the crisis, and the swift recovery of the health of the citizens of Flint.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, November 8th print edition.
Contact Patrick at