Lead pipe timeline splits governor, Flint mayor

Posted at 6:59 PM, Feb 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-17 18:59:49-05

FLINT, Mich. — Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder says it will take an engineering firm a month to identify lead pipes connected to Flint residents' homes, but he wants to see a "very short timeline" for some of the service lines to begin being replaced.

Snyder announced this week he will contract Rowe Professional Services, a local engineering company, to update that study focused on finding and replacing the lead pipes. Rowe has been a long standing fixture in the Flint business community, and Snyder is hoping their familiarity with the city’s underground infrastructure will help expedite the replacement process.

“This is an ongoing process,” Snyder said of the efforts to replace the affected pipes. “We’ve done a number of things but there’s much more to be done, and this is another step forward in that.”

The study is expected to last a period of one month. In that time, crews will work to track the whereabouts of some affected 10,000 service lines. They will replace 30 of those lines as part of a pilot program, meant to identify the most effective approach for replacement before moving forward.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver, meanwhile, said Wednesday that she intends to begin replacing pipes next week and lawmakers should quickly OK funding proposed last week by Snyder.

This has caused a rift between her and Snyder’s administration over the timeline for replacement of the pipes. Snyder spoke to that during his conference Wednesday.

“I think I’ve been consistent in this message and hopefully that’s resonated. You coat the pipes, you do the infrastructure study, and you do pipe replacement,” said Snyder.

“This is a process we need to follow through on, and keep it consistent. I would reinforce this message and I don’t think it’s inconsistent with what the mayor is saying. People may have different timelines. Her goal is to get pipes replaced, which is my goal. But that’s one of the steps of this larger process.”

Weaver has been vocal in her assertions that the replacement phase needs to happen immediately.

Flint is under a state of emergency because corrosive water was allowed to leach lead from pipes into the supply.

Snyder, who declined to say pipe replacement should begin next week, cautions that taking out pipes too quickly could have unintended consequences.

Rowe Professional Services was hired Tuesday to conduct a $500,000 study, including locating thousands of lead lines running from water mains to homes and businesses. Snyder says officials do not know the composition of 10,000 service lines still.

Earlier Wednesday, a House committee in Lansing OK'd $30 million to help Flint residents pay their high water bills.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.