Muskegon ponders funding ‘huge’ lead pipe project

Muskegon County

MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — The city of Muskegon is working to put a plan in place to get rid of all of its lead pipes. 

The move comes after a state mandate issued by the Snyder administration following the Flint water crisis requiring all cities replace their lead pipes over the next 20 years.

In older cities like Muskegon where the water systems was built before 1960, it can be a huge task. The city estimates nearly 90% of its pipes need to be replaced. Initial estimates put a $60 million price tag on the project.

Leo Evans with the city’s public works department says it’s money Muskegon doesn’t have.

“It is huge. If we didn’t do anything to raise rates to try to support that, we couldn’t afford to do it over the next 30 to 40 years,” Evans said.

Evans said the city only replaces pipes when doing road work, but the mandate may require it to replace several hundred a year.

To pay for the project, the city is considering adding a ready-to-serve charge to water bills or requiring homeowners to replace their own lines.

But with more than 15% of the population living in poverty, city leaders fear that could be too big of a financial burden on families.

The city says while it plans to comply with the mandate, the risk of lead exposure is extremely low.

“We do test our lead continuously at or more frequently than what’s required from the state and I’ve never had any issues with high lead levels,” Evans said. “You’re much more likely to be poisoned from paint in your house or old water fixtures.”

City officials are still deciding the best way to pay for the replacement initiative. They hope to have something in place by July 2020. 

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