FLINT, Michigan — The $1 trillion infrastructure bill includes $15 billion to replace lead pipe water services across the country.
More than seven years later after the Flint Water crisis began, the community could finally be free of lead pipes.
“Flint has had some tough days, weeks months and years,” said Allen Overton, a pastor at Christ Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in Flint. “We are still having some tough times.”
Overton was born and raised in Flint and was one of the people who sued the city and Michigan state officials, resulting in a settlement to get the lead pipes replaced.
However, the city of Flint still hasn’t fully recovered from its major water crisis.
The city switched its water supply in 2014 but failed to treat it, allowing water to corrode the lead from service pipes. This led to 12 people dying of lead poisoning, and 100,000 residents without access to safe tap water for months, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“I know several people that got sick,” Overton said. “I don’t know anyone that passed away from it, but several people got sick lost their hair. That was a modern-day event in this community with folks having side effects from the lead water. It’s always heartbreaking to see flint go through the devastation that It’s been through. Some of my dearest friends have left this community looking for a better community to live in that they’ve been here for thirty or forty years.”
Overton is one of many Flint residents who decided to stay, and though the city of Flint reported spending $100 million on replacing about 90% of lead pipe services, residents are still skeptical.
“We don’t drink the water,” Overton said. “I don’t trust the government, so why would I drink the water? Do I think the water is better? Of course, I do. But better doesn’t always mean it’s safe to drink it.”
People like Overton still use filters and spend money on bottled water while still paying their water bills.
However, with the new infrastructure bill, things could finally move forward in Flint with lead-free pipe services.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, there are an estimated 6 million lead service lines across the country, but some experts estimate that number is between 9 and 12 million.
The infrastructure bill will allocate $15 billion towards removing lead pipes nationwide.
“What Flint has shown us, and other places have shown us, once you break trust with the public, it’s very hard to regain that trust,” said Erik Olson with the NRDC.
Olson is one of those experts who believe there are 9 to 12 million lead service lines across the country.
Olson said the $15 billion is a huge step in the right direction, but it still may not be enough.
“Although that’s a huge investment and largest investment ever in fixing the lead drinking problem, it’s really only a third of what we really need,” Olson said. “We need additional investments to come we hope from the federal government from the Build Back Better bill, as well as state and local authorities.”
Olson and the NRDC hope the country can be completely free of lead pipe services in 10 years.
The NRDC hopes the country can prioritize communities, like Flint, that need it the most.
“They need to put something in place for those communities that are less fortunate,” Overton said.