It’s been over a year since a research team from Virginia Tech discovered elevated lead levels in the water supply of Flint, Mich. “The Flint Water Crisis” reached the national spotlight but stopped being treated as front-page news before the issue could actually be resolved.
The Flint Water Crisis began because of a money-saving policy. State officials began using the Flint River, a tributary well known for its high pollution levels, as a water source for the city. The highly corrosive water ran through city pipes for 18 months without receiving anti-corrosion treatment. As a result, the protective lining that covered the inside of the pipes wore away, exposing lead and iron to the drinking water of thousands of citizens. Residents of Flint can’t safely drink from their taps without a filter, and the state of Mich. has been distributing filters and bottled water to residents.
There are far more homes in Flint reliant on lead pipes than previously estimated. While it was originally thought that 10,000 lead service lines would need to be replaced, the number could actually be 20,000-25,000, according to researchers from the University of Mich. This means that over half the homes in Flint could have lead-poisoned water.
The original estimate made on the number of lead service pipelines in Flint — 8,400 — was based off of a 1984 survey, and found to be grossly inaccurate.
Flint has received $27 million dollars from the state to replace the current pipes with lead-free alternatives, but progress is slow. Mayor Karen Weaver, elected because of her promise to help resolve the water crisis, launched a Fast Start program to replace lead service lines in March. The goal for this project was to replace 500 pipes in the most seriously affected areas of the city by August. As of today, only 171 pipes have actually been replaced.
On Sept. 28, Congress struck a deal that allows for a vote to include $170 million dollars in Flint relief to the House version of the water bill. If passed, this water bill will provide funding for other communities impacted by lead poisoning, and also allow for flood repairs in Louisiana, as well as provide funding towards the research and control of the Zika virus in Florida. Congress plans to vote on the bill after the Nov. 8 election.