It has been over 1,000 days since the people of Flint, Mich., had clean water, and now the city’s mayor is telling the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that because of the lengthy construction and testing process for a new water-treatment plant, it will be another two years before the city can treat its own water for lead and other contaminants.
CNN reports that Flint Mayor Karen Weaver wrote to EPA officials earlier this week, saying: “To expedite completion of the project and minimize cost, a design/build project delivery method is proposed. Based on this approach, an August 2019 completion date is anticipated for the treatment plant improvements.”
Flint’s water problems began in 2014, when the city’s water source was switched from Lake Huron to the Flint River, which, according to researchers from Virginia Tech, is 19 times more corrosive. Lead from the water leached from the pipes into the city’s drinking-water supply.
The EPA intervened in 2016, following studies that revealed dangerous levels of lead in the city’s drinking water and a class-action lawsuit alleging that the Department of Environmental Quality wasn’t treating the Flint River with an anti-corrosive agent.
The EPA enacted a Safe Drinking Water Emergency Order, which allowed it to more closely monitor and control the state and local response efforts in Flint. These efforts include rerouting the water supply, replacing corroded water pipes and distributing bottled water and filters.
The EPA’s oversight requires that Weaver keeps the federal government abreast of developments in its plan to restore clean drinking water to the city. The federal agency has said it is still evaluating the water source alternatives and plan.
According to CNN, the city was also required by the EPA to get public input on its final water source and treatment plan. According to Weaver’s letter, the current proposed long-term water source is Lake Huron, but the city will also select a backup water source for use in emergencies.
Flint is currently using water from Detroit’s Great Lakes Water Authority, but that agreement expires this summer.
Although a six-month study by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality revealed in January that lead levels in Flint’s water supply had fallen below the federal limit, residents of the city have still been urged to use filtered water for cooking and drinking. A lot of residents are still relying heavily on bottled water.
Flint resident Delano Whidbee told CNN in October, “Nothing’s changed, except the attention has died off.”
No, Flint. We are still here with you. We will continue to talk about you until they get you straight.