The city of Flint, Michigan, has a new resource as it recovers from the water crisis that hit five years ago: $77 million in funding from the state.
On Monday (April 15), the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality provided Flint with the money, which the city’s Department of Public Works Director Rob Bincsik said is not “new funding.” MLive reports that it is actually from “a $120 million federal and state loan granted to Flint in March 2017 by the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act of 2016.”
Although it is called a loan, the $77 million carries zero interest and was 100 percent forgiven, meaning it does not have to be repaid. Flint intends to use the funding for various projects, including water meter replacements for homes, installation of water quality monitoring panels, construction of a new chemical feed building and completion of a pipeline that will connect to a secondary water source.
"These projects will help the short- and long-term sustainability of the water system in the city of Flint," Bincsik told MLive. "But as stated in the Water Distribution Optimization Plan, the water system needs in excess of another $300 million in capital improvements over the next 20 years."
Flint is still completing its FAST Start pipe program, which seeks to replace lead and galvanized steel water service lines throughout the city. It is estimated that it could take until 2020 to replace the approximate 20,000 lines.
The Flint water crisis was created by an April 2014 decision to switch the majority-Black city’s water source from the Great Lakes Water Authority to the Flint River. It resulted in a doubling of the percentage of Flint children with elevated levels of lead in their blood. In addition, there was a decrease in fertility and an increase in miscarriages and infant deaths. Among the fatalities were 12 people who died from Legionnaires' disease linked to the toxic water.
In April 2018, the state ended its free bottled water distribution program to the city’s residents, despite concerns that the drinking water was still not fully safe.