How long will Flint, Mich., rebuff enough free water pipe to replace every lead service line (LSL) in the city just because it is made of plastic?
A growing segment of the pipe industry is wondering and hoping to be heard and maybe even accepted at this most opportune moment. In Flint's time of crisis, more eyes and ears than ever before are on the metal-related problems that sent nasty rusty, lead-tainted water into homes and businesses.
Granted, many pressing medical, financial, legal and political issues are on the front burner for the city of 99,000 that has been in a state of emergency for months. Even so, the Plastics Pipe Institute and its members would like everyone to consider that when it comes to infrastructure issues, their plastic pipe and fitting products never contaminate drinking water with rust, lead and copper.
Why won't city and state officials at least set up a committee to study the case for using some of the millions of dollars' worth of free polyethylene service lines that Los Angeles-based JM Eagle CEO Walter Wang is ready to ship? PE is the No. 1 pipe material in Europe (and the only pipe material installed in England) because it is durable, economical and flexible enough for trenchless installation.
Wouldn't it be wise and prudent for Flint to look at the benefits of PE pipe? Nobody wants to pile onto the to-do list of Flint. However, these kinds of questions should be addressed if the top goal for the $125 million put up by 10 charitable foundations earlier this month — in addition to millions of dollars in other contributions from companies and individuals — is taken seriously.
The pledges have poured into the city. The donations will be funneled to programs for safe water, health needs, intervention for children dealing with the effects of lead exposure, early education and economic revitalization. That's a big boost of money and morale in the city where 41.6 percent of the residents live below federal poverty lines.
When Flint Mayor Karen Weaver thanked the foundations in a news release on May 10, she said she knows their contributions will make a significant difference in moving the city and its lead-plagued drinking water supply along the road to recovery. The first of six priorities listed in the release calls for continued independent testing to ensure drinking water is safe as well as support for experts working on “a 21st century approach” to water management.