Months of suffering seemed to be coming to an end as work started on lead replacement in Flint service lines, but true to the entire fiasco, the start wasn’t without controversy.
Flint Coalition, a group of business, charitable and community entities, is working with the residents to help them out during these testing times and is also paying for line replacements. Gov. Rick Snyder had announced his plans to conduct a water infrastructure study in order to identify the various types of service lines in the city and also to replace 30 lead lines. The study was expected to be completed by March 15. Mayor Karen Weaver had also discussed her own plans to start pipe replacements. With so much hope on offer, you’d expect lead replacement work to be in full swing.
However, Waldorf and Sons Excavating crews arrived at 717E. Alma Ave. to replace the service line from the water main to the house, only to realize that a police officer had ordered work to be stopped, as city officials checked to make sure contractors pulled permits.
Kristin Moore, the spokeswoman for Mayor Weaver, wrote in an email to the Flint Journal that work had only been temporarily stopped to make sure that everything was in order and the proper permits were in place. She further wrote, “once that information was verified, the work was allowed to proceed.”
Meanwhile, any further delays simply make things more difficult for the locals. “It’s a basic human right to have clean water”, says JenanJondy from Sylvester Broome Empowerment Village. “The water is terrible”, added Brittani Felton, stating that her two young children were battling skin conditions due to the water.
To add fuel to fire, Eric Mays, a city councilman who had advocated for black contractors to perform line replacements, got into a shouting match with Arthur Woodson, a water activist who helped in organizing the replacement.
Visibly frustrated by the delays, construction crews broke for early lunch, leaving the officials to sort out the permits. Work was finally allowed to resume an hour later after the local police confirmed that all necessary permits had been filed with the city.
Despite all the controversy, Felton actually felt blessed to see the line at her home being replaced.
Flint is currently in the spotlight after some of its children showed elevated blood levels once the city changed its water supply to the Flint River in the year 2014, a horrendous decision that was made when the city was run by an emergency manager.
Regulators never actually required the river water to be treated in order to make it less corrosive, and this caused lead from the pipes and plumbing to mix with the city’s water supply. And despite reconnecting to the Detroit water system, local residents were advised to only drink city water if they were using lead-clearing filters.
Tough times ahead for a city that has already seen a lot of problems due to the dangers posed by lead! Perhaps, now it is time for us to wake up to the dangers of lead poisoning and look at lead alternatives and lead substitute materials and technologies?