By Paul Egan and Kathleen Gray, Detroit Free Press (TNS)
LANSING, Mich. — Michigan won’t know how much it needs to spend to repair and replace water infrastructure in Flint in 2016-17 before Republican Gov. Rick Snyder presents the 2017 fiscal year budget on Feb. 10, according to a spokesman for state Budget Director John Roberts.
“We don’t have an exact date yet as to when the infrastructure study will be completed,” said Kurt Weiss.
It won’t be in time for Snyder’s budget presentation, but “the governor will be making more announcements about investments for Flint when he releases the budget,” Weiss said Monday.
Preliminary estimates of the cost of repairing Flint’s water distribution infrastructure — damaged by corrosive Flint River water that was not treated with corrosion control chemicals from April 2014 through October 2015 — range from millions of dollars to as high as $1.5 billion.
DEQ officials could not immediately say Tuesday whether the state has hired an expert to assess the condition of the Flint water infrastructure, how much it will cost to repair it, or when that information is expected to be available.
The Legislature has already approved $9.35 million for Flint for the current 2016 fiscal year and a further 2016 appropriation of $28 million has passed the House and is awaiting action in the Senate this week.
The $28 million supplemental appropriation bill for 2015-16 is expected to be revised Wednesday in the Senate Appropriations Committee before moving on to the full Senate. Senators have said that because of the massive surge of donations of bottled water to Flint, some of the money could be targeted away from water toward other needs.
Currently, the bill allocates $500,000 to study Flint’s water infrastructure and $2 million for water system needs, which could include new infrastructure.
Officials say Flint has about 500 miles of old iron pipe and thousands of lead service lines, none of which have been replaced since the state acknowledged a public health crisis around Oct. 1.
It wasn’t clear Tuesday if the amendments the Senate is planning would direct more money toward infrastructure needs.
Snyder’s Flint Water Advisory Task Force said in a letter to Snyder on Friday that the state needs to accelerate its efforts in “re-establishing a reliable, trusted potable water system in Flint.”
Flint drinking water became contaminated with lead after the city, while under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager, temporarily switched its source from Lake Huron water treated by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to water from the Flint River, treated at the Flint water treatment plant.
DEQ Director Dan Wyant resigned in December after acknowledging the DEQ failed to require the addition of needed corrosion control chemicals to the corrosive Flint River water. As a result, lead leached from pipes, joints and fixtures, contaminating the drinking water for an unknown number of Flint households. Lead causes permanent brain damage in children, as well as other health problems.
For months, state officials downplayed reports of lead in the water and a spike in lead levels in the blood of Flint children, before acknowledging a problem on Oct. 1.
Also Tuesday, less than a week after issuing an emergency order that it would take over water sampling in Flint, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued an update saying it expects to begin several rounds of sampling to confirm that filters distributed to residents are effective in removing lead and to better understand the types of service lines prevalent in the city. The EPA also said it would take samples to “ensure corrosion control is being restored in the drinking water system.” Last week, the agency complained that the city and state DEQ weren’t enacting recommendations for improving city water quickly enough.
(Detroit Free Press staff writer Todd Spangler contributed to this report.)
©2016 Detroit Free Press. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Photo: The Flint River is seen flowing thru downtown in Flint, Michigan, in this file photo from December 16, 2015. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook/Files