By DAVID EGGERT, Associated Press
LANSING, Mich. (AP) – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday proposed spending $ 200 million in federal pandemic relief funds to replace lead water pipes in Michigan, where aging underground infrastructure has been exposed by the Flint disaster.
The plan, if approved by the Legislature, would set aside $ 20 million to replace all lines at Benton Harbor within five years. The predominantly black city in the southwestern corner of the state has exceeded the federal lead limit since 2018.
That year, Michigan began enforcing the country’s strictest rules for lead in drinking water following the crisis in Flint, another impoverished predominantly black city. The regulations will result in the replacement of every lead service line statewide by 2041, unless a utility can show regulators that this will take longer.
“Every Michigander deserves access to clean drinking water and every community deserves lead-free pipes,” the Democratic governor said in a statement.
The proposal would expand a body of water that Whitmer announced nearly a year ago, including $ 102 million to replace lead service lines in underprivileged communities. In June, Republicans who control the Senate unveiled a $ 2.5 billion water infrastructure proposal that would be funded primarily by federal COVID-19 relief aid. Their plan includes $ 600 million to replace the pipes, triple what the governor is looking for.
Whitmer said more money was needed to replace all the pipes, but noted that Michigan would get additional funds under President Joe Biden’s $ 3.5 trillion infrastructure program, which is on hold at the Congress.
Michigan has approximately 460,000 lead service lines, the third largest in the United States, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. Municipalities and water utilities have estimated the replacement cost could total $ 2.5 billion.
Flint has become a national symbol for the long-standing threat of lead, which can disrupt children’s brain development, causing learning and behavior problems. Adults can also suffer from damage to the nervous system and kidneys.
The city transferred its source of drinking water from Detroit to the Flint River in 2014 as part of a temporary economy, while being managed by an emergency financial director appointed by the government of the day. Rick Snyder. State environmental regulators have advised local authorities not to treat river water with anti-corrosion additives. River water scraped lead from aging pipes and plumbing fixtures, contaminating the supply.
Flint is in the process of replacing around 10,000 service lines as part of a 2017 settlement of a lawsuit filed by residents and nonprofit groups. The search and replace operation involved more than 27,000 excavations.
In Benton Harbor, a town of 9,700 people, much of the water system is about 100 years old. The state and other government officials have taken steps such as making free filters available and securing additional funds for upgrades.
Mayor Marcus Muhammad said he was grateful for the $ 20 million offered. But other members of the community, while grateful, said that was not enough.
The Rev. Edward Pickney, chairman of the Benton Harbor Community Water Council, said he and environmental groups will ask the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday to provide bottled water or another source of drinking water – such as trucks – tanks – until the lead pipes are gone. .
“We cannot wait another day to ask for help for our elders and our children, who are our future,” he said.
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This story has been corrected to indicate that the pipes need to be replaced by 2041, not 2038, based on new information provided by the governor’s office.
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