As the sixth anniversary of the Flint water switch and the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic intersect, officials and businesses alike are responding
On April 25, 2014, the city of Flint, Michigan, switched its water source from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to the Flint River temporarily while it constructed a pipeline to connect to the Karegnondi Water Authority. On Dec. 14, 2015, Flint announced a state of emergency in response to the lead in water crisis.
Since then, more than 1,500 Michigan residences had water service reconnected or avoided planned shutoffs as a result of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-28, which requires public water supplies to restore water service to occupied residences where service had been terminated due to nonpayment.
This decision came to a head as COVID-19 (coronavirus) continues to alter daily life and disrupt businesses across the world.
“The restoration of water service to these homes through Gov. Whitmer’s actions helps some of our most vulnerable during this challenging time and gives Michiganders access to the tools they need to protect themselves,” said Liesl Clark, EGLE director.
The order requires systems that have used shutoff for nonpayment in the last year to report back on their efforts to identify and restore services, according to the city.
So far, Flint has excavated 25,400 service lines in its effort to replace all lead service lines, reported Michigan Radio. Fewer than 5,000 are left to check, according to contractors.
The program was initially supposed to wrap up in 2019, but it was delayed and not expected to be wrapped up until June of this year. Due to the coronavirus restrictions put in place, the face-to-face meetings needed to get homeowners' approval to replace the lines on their properties are “unreasonable and unrealistic” during the pandemic, according to Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley.
Nevertheless, a new timeline for the project will be set, pushing clean water efforts forward.
Flint residents are reminded to continue using the city’s three Help Centers to get bottled water, which is distributed with drive up/curbside delivery, if needed. Nestlé Waters North America, for instance, is increasing its donation of bottled water to the city of Flint.
The donation is specifically for home delivery to those most vulnerable to the virus, reported the city. Nestlé Waters has been providing 100,000 bottles of water each week to the residents of Flint since May 2018. Distributed from three Help Centers in the city, more than 9.7 million bottles have been donated.
The state’s Stay Home, Stay Safe order may complicate efforts to comply with the reporting directive, especially for smaller water systems with limited staffing. The EGLE will work with water system operators to ensure compliance with both the reconnection requirements and reporting obligations to mitigate this issue.
EGLE has also developed a grant program to provide funding to help communities reconnect water to residences and is working with municipal water systems to facilitate that process. Communities interested in the grant program to assist with reconnection can send an email to [email protected] to begin the process.
Testing has continued to show that water quality has stabilized and residents are still encouraged to get their water tested. Water filters, replacement cartridges and water tests are free and delivered to your front door, reported the city. Residents can call 810-410-2020 for assistance.