After years of fighting for the right to clean water, Flint residents finally have some good news. A federal judge for the state of Michigan has agreed to spend $97 million to replace the city’s damaged water pipes. Over the next three years, officials must examine water lines for all 18,000 households, and replace lines made of lead and galvanized steel.
Plaintiff and Flint resident Melissa Mays told NPR that the settlement represents the first real progress on this issue in years. “This is the first little battle won in this huge overall war,” said Mays. “For the first time, we’ve been able to have a federal court enforce the state to do the right thing, which is to replace the pipes that their agencies and their administration broke. And now people can start to see progress.”
$87 million will go toward the pipe replacement and $10 million will be on hand in case they need the extra funds. The deal also requires Michigan to continue operating nine bottled water and filter distribution centers until May 1, after which they may begin closing procedures depending on the water quality. The state has also agreed to keep federal funding above average for programs supporting women and children affected by the high levels of lead. The funding for these particular programs has been extended to at least 2018, and for some until 2021. The money will come from both state and federal funds.
While recent tests have showed Flint’s lead levels to be within federal regulation limits, residents are still advised to use filters. Many residents don’t trust the tap water, and prefer to drink bottled water. For some, three years seems like a really long time to wait for new pipes. Allen Overton of Concerned Pastors for Social Action told NPR, “Does this settlement agreement solve every problem Flint faces as a result of the water crisis? No, it doesn’t, we will still have lots to do to rebuild our city.” However, the settlement is definitely a long-awaited move in the right direction. Overton added, “Does this agreement leave the community better off than it was before? Yes, it does.”
The water crisis in Flint began back in 2014. Three years later, government officials are just now starting the process for a new water line. Unfortunately, the new regulations come too late for many people who have already suffered the horrific effects of lead poisoning. Considering making a donation to the Flint Child Health & Development fund to help ensure long-term care for those most affected.