As part of an ongoing effort to keep its water safe, Flint, Mich. has filed an extension to allow officials more time to submit water tests for the homes most likely to have lead water lines.
Michigan state and federal laws require the city to test for lead lines every six months—a more frequent timetable than other cities due to the 2014 water crisis, reports Michigan Radio. But not every home in Flint needs to be tested. About 60 homes that are at the highest risk for having lead lines must have their lead levels confirmed to make sure they’re below the federal threshold. These homes have either lead service lines or lead in indoor plumbing, Michigan Live writes.
Water samples were due to the state by Tuesday, Dec. 31. According to Michigan Radio, the city has tested “more than 60 sites, but, so far, believes they’ve only confirmed 43 of those lead water lines.”
The city also proactively filed an extension this week that would give it until July of this year to test and replace any lead lines (the original deadline is June 30, 2020).
City works have already dug up thousands of water lines, replacing those that have lead in them. But Flint’s ongoing efforts to ensure its water is clean and safe is hampered by “exceptionally poor or nonexistent records” detailing the kinds of pipes that are funneling water into residents’ homes, reports Michigan Radio.
Flint has been at the forefront of a national conversation around clean water, environmental racism, and government accountability after high lead levels in its water sparked a massive public health crisis. At least 12 people died as a result of the tainted water—though a recent Frontline investigation found the death toll may have actually been much higher.
Earlier this year, state prosecutors dropped criminal charges (including involuntary manslaughter) against eight state and local officials who had been accused of both creating the crisis and ignoring its early warning signs. Many in Flint, a majority-black working class city, felt the government’s lack of prompt response was due to its demographics—a sentiment shared across the country.
According to the city’s most recent estimates, by the middle of this year, Flint will have replaced all of its lead lines. It has tested below the federal threshold for action since 2017.