WASHINGTON, D.C. (WWJ/AP) – Congressman Dan Kildee of Flint spoke at the White House Water Summit Tuesday, to discuss the need to invest in America’s aging infrastructure to ensure safe drinking water.

Kildee said the contamination of Flint’s water can be traced to the state wanting to save money.

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“Essentially defending direct support for the city itself, created this series of unbelievable decisions but it was because of this obsession with austerity and the result is that the cost of solving this problem is astronomically higher than the cost of preventing it in the first place,” said Kildee.

Kildee says the cost to address this issue is in the billion, not million, dollar range.

“Our calculation is about a billion and a half dollars – now it would not have cost a billion and a half dollars for some substantial upgrades to the Flint water system. Simply replacing all those … private lead services lines is about a $55 million equation, simply providing … phosphorus treatment to the river water was about $100 a day,” he says.

Officials and water experts are hopeful that there is a less drastic and far cheaper step — using a chemical to recoat existing pipes and contain the lead. If it works, that could make the water safe enough to drink until the damage to the system can be fully assessed.

The problem is that nobody knows how badly the pipes were damaged after the state’s disastrous decision in 2014 to use the Flint River as the city’s drinking water source without adding a chemical to control corrosion. That caused lead to leach into the water for a year and a half and contributed to a spike in child lead poisoning before city and state officials fully acknowledged the problem.

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“I don’t think anybody knows how long it will take or the amount of corrosion built up in the pipes,” longtime city Councilman Scott Kincaid told the Associated Press in January.

Kildee says this brand of governmental austerity is dangerous to America.

Experts also say that Flint’s lead service pipes, which connect homes to the wider water system, must eventually be replaced because they have aged the equivalent of 10 years in 18 months.

“Damage to the pipe integrity can never be reversed,” Marc Edwards, a Virginia Tech civil engineering professor who helped identify and expose Flint’s lead problem, said in an email to The Associated Press.

 

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