FLINT, Michigan -- Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley announced that fewer than 500 Flint homes still need lead service lines replaced during a press conference with the Environmental Protection Agency on December 7.
“We’re doing a thorough check to make sure no one was missed, but we believe we are fewer than 500 from our completion goal,” Neeley said.
The press conference was held by the EPA to list improvements to Flint’s water system since the Flint water crisis began in 2016. A new partnership between Delta College and Flint Community Schools was also announced to train students for careers in water treatment.
EPA Region 5 Administrator Kurt Thiede said that water treatment utilities around the country often lack the skilled workers needed to keep facilities operating at optimal levels. Delta College, a community college in Bay County, has a two-year program in water environmental technology, which prepares graduates for careers that include wastewater and water treatment plant operators. The goal of the partnership would be to train Flint high school students for careers managing the city’s water system.
Additionally, like many water utilities across the country, Flint has struggled to attract the skilled workers needed to keep the water system operating. To address this issue, EPA, the City of Flint, and Delta College developed a program to train Flint high school students to work in this important field.
“This is a unique and important partnership,” said Jean Goodnow, Delta College president, noting that Delta is among a small number of colleges in Michigan with a two-year program in water and wastewater treatment. “Delta’s role will be to introduce Flint Community Schools students to our water environmental technology program and the career opportunities associated with it. It gives them a path to pursue an associate’s degree and then a career with the Flint water system.”
The city of Flint reports that it has done 26,000 service line excavations, with 9,700 lines that were made of lead or galvanized metal replaced. Thiede said the city also completed a study in the fall looking at optimal corrosion control dosages to be used in drinking water systems, data from which can be used in other cities around the country.
“Flint has turned a corner after a lot of hard work,” he said. “The drinking water system is in better shape now than it has ever been.”
Thiede also said that Flint is ahead of schedule for completing periodic testing for lead at 60 homes every six months, including homes that still have lead service lines. That testing will decrease as more lead service lines are replaced. The EPA reports that Flint hasn’t had a reported exceedance of the EPA Lead and Copper Rule’s action level (15 ppb) in the last four years, but does still recommend that residents use faucet filters for drinking water.
There are still ongoing infrastructure improvements being made to the city’s water system. A pipeline to a backup drinking water source is expected to be completed in May of 2021 and a chemical feed building at the Flint Water Plant is expected to be done in November 2021.
Thiede wouldn’t, however, address lawsuits that have resulted from the water crisis. The city of Flint and state of Michigan have discussed a proposed settlement for the ongoing litigation, but the federal government hasn’t joined in that proposal. Thiede was asked twice by Flint Journal reporter Ron Fonger to provide an update on those lawsuits, but declined comment both times.