U.S. EPA awards $100 million to upgrade Flint water system

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By Valerie Volcovici | WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON The U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency said on Friday it had awarded $100 million to upgrade
Flint, Michigan’s drinking water infrastructure to address a
crisis that exposed thousands of children to lead poisoning.

The grant to the Michigan Department of Environmental
Quality will enable the city to “accelerate and expand” its work
to replace lead pipes and make other improvements, according to
the EPA. Estimates of the upgrade’s cost range from $200 million
to $400 million.

Friday’s announcement made the disbursement official. Last
year, Congress passed and former president Barack Obama signed
the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act to
allocate $100 million to aid Flint.

The EPA’s state revolving funds, which Congress can allocate
to help with cleanup efforts, were one of the few programs that
the Trump administration did not slash in its proposed budget
for the agency.

“EPA will especially focus on helping Michigan improve
Flint’s water infrastructure as part of our larger goal of
improving America’s water infrastructure,” said a statement from
agency Administrator Scott Pruitt.

The EPA will make $31.5 million immediately available for
lead pipe replacements and upgrades, and Michigan will provide a
$20 million required match.

The remaining $68.5 million will come after the city and
Michigan complete additional public comment and technical

“Today we have good news for families in Flint who have
already waited far too long for their water system to be fixed,”
said a statement from U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary
Peters, and Congressman Dan Kildee, all Michigan Democrats.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver, also a Democrat, said the funds
would help the city reach its goal of replacing 6,000 pipes this
year. She met briefly with President Donald Trump on Wednesday.

In January, 1,700 Flint residents filed a lawsuit in the
U.S. District Court in Michigan, saying the EPA failed to warn
them of the dangers of the toxic water or take steps to ensure
that state and local authorities were addressing the crisis. The
plaintiffs seek $722 million in damages.

Midwestern politicians are worried about the elimination in
the proposed U.S. budget of funding for an effort to clean up
the Great Lakes, from which some states draw their drinking

Flint was under the control of a state-appointed emergency
manager when it switched its water source to the Flint River
from Lake Huron in April 2014. The more corrosive river water
caused lead to leach from pipes and into the drinking water.

The city returned to its original water source in October
2015. (Additional reporting by Timothy Gardner)

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