The Latest: Flint crews dig up, replace first lead line
FLINT, Mich. (AP) — The Latest on the lead-contaminated water crisis in Flint, Michigan (all times local):
Crews on Friday dug up a lead service line and replaced it with a copper one at the Flint, Michigan, home of an expectant couple.
It marked the first residential lead pipe removal that is part of Mayor Karen Weaver’s Fast Start initiative designed to replace all lead service lines in the city that’s dealing with contaminated water.
Weaver told reporters outside Barry Richardson II’s home that she was “almost speechless” at the prospect of finally beginning to rid the city of lead service lines.
Richardson lives in the home with his pregnant fiancee. He thanked the mayor and said he no longer will “have to worry about the lead poisoning” his water.
Lead leaching from aging pipes in Flint has resulted in elevated lead levels in some children’s bloodstreams. The problems began after the city switched its water supply from Detroit’s system to the Flint River in 2014 to save money.
U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is among more than two dozen congressional Democrats visiting Flint to hear from families affected by the Michigan city’s ongoing water crisis.
Friday’s trip was the third visit by congressional Democrats to Flint, where lead from aging pipes has resulted in elevated lead levels in some children’s bloodstreams. The problems began after the city switched its water supply from Detroit’s system to the Flint River in 2014 to save money.
Michigan Rep. Dan Kildee said the visit allowed federal lawmakers to hear about Flint’s problems firsthand. The congressman said the trip will also help keep pressure on Congress to act on stalled legislation aimed at helping the city.
Kildee criticized Republicans in the U.S. Senate for delaying the bill. He noted that lawmakers who have visited Flint in recent weeks were all Democrats.
Auditors say Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality made crucial errors when overseeing a switch in water sources for the city of Flint that resulted in a lead contamination crisis.
A state auditor general’s report released Friday says department staff failed to require Flint to treat its water with anti-corrosive chemicals when it began drawing from the Flint River in April 2014. The city had stopped purchasing Lake Huron water from Detroit to save money.
The corrosive river water scraped lead from aging pipes, which tainted water in homes and schools.
DEQ acknowledges its mistakes but says federal regulations on lead pollution are vague. The audit says the rules may not be strong enough.
It also says the department should improve its lead testing procedures and that it doesn’t have enough money to adequately monitor water supplies.
A doctor and a Flint mother will receive a courage award from a prominent literary group for their work in exposing the lead contamination in the Michigan city’s water.
Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha and LeeAnne Walters will be awarded the Freedom of Expression Courage Award from PEN America on May 16. The group of writers dedicated to free expression and human rights made the announcement Friday.
Hanna-Attisha last fall reported high levels of lead in children, findings that eventually caused the state to take action. Walters’ water was contaminated by lead. She alerted a Virginia Tech expert who took samples around Flint and was shocked by the results.
Corrosive water from the Flint River was leaching lead from old plumbing for more than a year.
Crews in Flint are starting to dig up old lead pipes connecting water mains to homes as part of efforts to allay the city’s contaminated water crisis.
Mayor Karen Weaver says work starting Friday will target lead service lines at homes in neighborhoods with the highest number of children under 6 years old, senior citizens, pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems and homes where water tests indicate high levels of lead at the tap.
On Thursday, a crew dug up a service line leading to a Flint home as part of a separate effort funded by group of private, charitable, business and community groups.
Also Friday, Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee of Michigan is set to lead a delegation of 25 members of congress to hear from Flint residents.