Flint Mayor Karen Weaver on Tuesday announced that city officials have excavated all of the lead and iron pipelines it targeted following the crippling water crisis, wrapping the project one year ahead of schedule.
At a morning press conference, Weaver lauded the city’s efforts to excavate over 18,000 galvanized or lead pipes through Nov. 30, The Detroit News reported. About 7,700 of the lines have been replaced in what supporters have called a “monumental achievement.”
“We have been ahead of schedule from the very beginning,” Weaver told the newspaper of her FAST START project, which began in 2016 and was anticipated to be complete in 2019. “Public health and public trust has been priority one and we have never wavered from our mission to provide safe, clean drinking water to every resident in the city of Flint.”
“Moving forward, we will continue our fight to make Flint whole,” she added. “We have made a lot of progress in these last two years, and I do not plan on slowing down.”
Flint leaders have hailed the project as having one of the fastest timelines to replace the old, lead-leaching pipes in the country. The replacements were funded in part by a $97 million settlement of a federal lawsuit filed against the city, along with government money approved for Michigan in 2016, according to The Detroit News.
In contrast, the city of Lansing took 12 years and $44.3 million to replace its more than 12,000 lead pipelines.
The announcement comes four years after city officials opted to switch its water source from the Detroit system to the Flint River, a cost-cutting effort that ultimately left entire city sickened after toxic lead leached into the water supply. Outrage ensued after it was revealed that state officials, including Gov. Rick Snyder (R), waited nearly three months before notifying residents that their water had been tainted.
Since 2014, the contamination crisis has left 12 people dead, 79 others sickened with Legionnaire’s Disease and hundreds of children with elevated lead levels in their blood. Even today, Flint residents are warned against using the city’s tap water, even though routine testing has shown water lead levels have dropped below the federal limit.
“We will continue to make our case for in home fixtures and appliances that were damaged as a result of this crisis, to be fixed,” Weaver said. “We’ll continue to cry out for justice and that those who are responsible for this tragedy be held accountable, no matter the person.”
A total of 15 city and state leaders have been charged for their role in the crisis, facing counts of misconduct in office and involuntary manslaughter.
“We work diligently to show up for the residents of Flint and to let them know that this is not business as usual and their health will not be taken lightly, nor will cost be prioritized over lives,” the mayor added.
It should be noted that Weaver’s replacement plan does not include homes with inactive or past-due water accounts.