Replacing Flint’s lead-tainted water pipes could cost nearly double than previously thought, according to a report acquired by the Detroit Free Press Saturday.
Engineering company Rowe Professional Services said the average cost for replacing the damaged and corrupted water lines would be $7,500 per replacement. The initial cost, as quoted by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, was estimated to be around $4,000.
The engineering company suggested the updated cost could run even higher, as its calculations do not include the average permit fees of $2,400 per site, according to the 115-page report.
Saturday’s report showing an increase in cost for the repairs roiled the governor’s office.
“Isn’t it odd that the city is charging so much for permits, pavement cuts, etc. at a time when it claims everyone needs to do everything they can to help the people of Flint recover?” Ari Adler, spokesman for Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, said in an email, according to the Detroit Free Press. “The mayor keeps saying they need a lot more money to do the replacements, and yet the city is charging very large fees for the work the city wants to get done.”
The entire debacle has become a political mess, with local and state officials blaming each other for both the crisis and the failure to address it sooner.
Two local Flint officials pointed fingers at federal and state agencies during a March 3 congressional committee hearing discussing the city’s water crisis.
The hearing was replete with accusations, with the formal regional director for the Environmental Protection Agency, Susan Hedman, arguing local officials were responsible for the lead-poisoning. While Darnell Earley, who was the emergency manager appointed by Snyder leading up to the crisis, blamed the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for failing to tell him about the city’s water problems sooner.
Snyder said at a congressional hearing March 17 that Michigan should have done a lot more to make sure the crisis did not metastasize.
“Let me be blunt,” Snyder told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform during his opening remarks. “This was a failure of government at all levels. Local, state, and federal officials – we all failed the families of Flint.”
The crisis has also threatened to engulf Flint Mayor Karen Weaver in a cocoon of corruption.
Former Flint City Administrator Natasha Henderson claimed in a lawsuit filed May 10, several months after the crisis was revealed, she was terminated from her job after raising concerns the mayor’s office redirected assets meant for victims of the water crisis towards the mayor’s campaign fund.
Henderson claimed she received reports in February from two local employees who said they were instructed to appropriate money from a Flint charity called Safe Water/Safe Homes to one of Weaver’s political action committees, “KarenaboutFlint.” Michigan’s tax registries show no sign of such a group existing.
Weaver has denied these allegations.
“It saddens me that someone would attempt to taint me as mayor of a city that is dealing with a major public health crisis, which has affected every man, woman and child in Flint,” Weaver said in a press statement to the Detroit News.
The uptick in the cost to replace the pipes is sure to complicate talks over how much Michigan should ante up to fix Flint. The state is staring down the barrel of a $460 million revenue shortfall.
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