WASHINGTON - Flint will soon start receiving $31.5 million of a total $100 million in federal funding to be used toward replacing old lead water lines, and it will be making other infrastructure repairs with the other tens of millions to follow.
U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, all D-Mich., said Friday morning that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had approved $100 million in funding for Flint authorized under legislation passed by Congress and signed into law by former President Barack Obama late last year.
"Today, we have good news for families in Flint who have already waited far too long for their water system to be fixed,” they said in a joint statement. “After a hard-fought victory to secure $100 million in assistance last year, the City of Flint will finally begin receiving funding."
Lead levels jumped significantly in Flint residents' tap water after the city switched water sources in April 2014 and the state Department of Environmental Quality failed to require corrosion-control treatments. Without those treatments, the more corrosive Flint River water caused lead to leach out of old water pipes into the city's drinking water supply.
Flint Mayor Karen Weaver, along with Kildee, who is from Flint Township, and others in Congress, fought throughout 2016 to try to secure funding that would allow the city to replace many of the old water lines, a task expected to cost $55 million or more. Millions more are believed to be needed to pay for other repairs and improvements throughout the city's water treatment and delivery system, as well as to fund maintenance.
Weaver, who has argued that the improvements are necessary to restore confidence in the local water system, said today she was "very grateful" for the funds.
“The City of Flint being awarded a grant of this magnitude in such a critical time of need will be a huge benefit," she said, adding that the city has a goal of replacing 6,000 pipes this year.
Gov. Rick Snyder said the funding, combined with nearly $250 million in state funding already committed toward addressing the water crisis in Flint since 2015, will help keep the city moving toward full recovery.
Added new EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, “The people of Flint and all Americans deserve a more responsive federal government. EPA will especially focus on helping Michigan improve Flint’s water infrastructure as part of our larger goal of improving America’s water infrastructure.”
In order to win passage of the funding, Michigan senators had to battle to get it included in other legislation — first losing a fight to have it included in an energy bill, then getting it put into a bill related to water projects. It passed despite efforts in the House to have it stripped out of the final bill.
Under today's announcement, the EPA will start doling out the initial $31.5 million. That will also trigger $20 million in state matching funds for a total of $51.5 million for lead service-line replacements, distribution-main improvements and corrosion control.
At a later date, the remaining $68.5 million will be released to the city but will only be provided after Flint and state officials gather public comments and technical reviews on the projects to be funded.
Beyond the $100 million authorized, the law approved last year included a provision to forgive another $20 million in past infrastructure loans to Flint. It also included $50 million for monitoring and addressing the needs of children exposed to lead, though that funding wasn't specifically for Flint.
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Contact Todd Spangler: 703-854-8947 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @tsspangler.
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