KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The Flint water crisis made everyone painfully aware of just how dangerous lead pipes are. In Kalamazoo, workers were busy replacing lead pipes even before Flint made local and national headlines. 

Steve Skalski is Kalamazoo’s assistant city engineer. He says the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality awarded the City of Kalamazoo a $1 million grant.

“It’s pretty significant,” he said.

The money will be spent to identify and remove lead pipes.

“It’s a lot of money to spend on services,” said Skalski.

That’s because the city’s entire yearly lead pipe budget is $2.5 million. Now, the city has more money that will pay to replace an additional 150 lead service lines.

“I think we have 46,000 services total in the system, of which 2,700 are lead services,” Skalski explained.

The city replaced 500 lead service lines last year; this year workers are on pace to replace about 600. 

“We get requests somewhat frequently from customers that believe they have lead services,” Skalski said. “If we find that they have lead service lines, we sample their water quality and if it comes back hot, we get them on the list regardless.”

Although work is going fast, Skalski says it will take another 10 years to identify and replace all service lines.

“We’ve always been proactive for the last several years, we’ve been very proactive about removing lead services from our system,” he said. “Over the last couple of years, we’ve increased…because of Flint.  We said, ‘Ok, let’s put more effort into it right now and get these out of the way right now.’”

Close to 20 other Michigan cities were awarded the grant, including Grand Rapids, Muskegon and Battle Creek.