Skip to main content
Bridge Michigan
Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

After delays in Flint lead pipe replacement, Michigan comes to rescue

Flint water tower
Only last week did Flint finish lead line replacement work that was supposed to be done in 2020 under a legal settlement. Some 1,900 homes are still awaiting fixes for torn-up yards and sidewalks from the pipe replacement work. (Photo by Michael Indriolo)
  • Under a 2017 legal settlement, Flint was supposed to finish lead line replacement work in 2020
  • The effort has dragged on, with some 1,900 homes enduring damaged yards and sidewalks from past pipe replacements 
  • Now, the state wants to step in and finish the job

After years of delays in Flint’s efforts to remove lead drinking water pipes and fix yards torn up from pipe replacements, the state of Michigan wants to take over.

In a motion filed Wednesday before U.S. District Court Judge David M. Lawson, state lawyers asked to pause Flint’s requirement to do the work and give Michigan a chance to finish the job by August 2025. 

State lawyers made the motion at Flint officials’ request. In a statement Wednesday, Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley expressed gratitude.


“We are committed to getting the lead out at every home, and we are continuing to seek funding to replace additional lead service lines beyond the terms of the settlement agreement,” Neeley said.

Ten years have passed since an emergency manager appointed by the state switched Flint’s water source to save money. Doing so without properly treating pipes exposed drinking water to lead, and contributed to elevated blood lead levels among children.


That caused a health crisis, and 12 people died of Legionnaires’ disease during that time. However, numerous studies have shown that profound learning losses that many feared did not materialize, Bridge has reported.

The judge is overseeing Flint’s follow-through on the terms of a $97 million legal settlement involving Flint, the state, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Concerned Pastors for Social Action, Flint resident Melissa Mays and the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan. 

That settlement required the city to excavate service lines in about 31,500 homes, and replace those made of lead or galvanized steel. The work was originally supposed to be done in 2020, but has been dogged by repeated delays. 

This spring, Lawson held Flint in contempt of court for its failure to finish the work.

The city finished service line replacements required by the settlement last week. But there are still about 1,900 homes in need of repairs after lawns, sidewalks and driveways were damaged during past pipe replacements. 

If granted permission to take over, the state has vowed to finish repairs by August 2025. It estimates the work will cost upwards of $4.75 million.

Flint officials said they lacked money to do the work, because the pool of state money the city was using to conduct the work had only $1 million left. 

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit that led to the 2017 settlement lauded the state’s decision to step in, saying it was long overdue.


“After years of urging the State of Michigan to provide more help to restore safe drinking water to Flint, that day is finally here,” said Mays, who is operations manager for Flint Rising. “Enough is enough. Let’s finish the work quickly, so Flint residents can begin to heal from a water crisis and government failures that have lasted a decade.”

There remain hundreds of homes in Flint with lead service lines. Those pipes were not excavated as part of the legal settlement because homeowners failed to give the city permission to do the work. 

Since then, lawmakers have passed a law requiring cities to remove all lead service lines. Flint city government spokesperson Caitie O’Neill said officials are looking for funding to excavate service lines at those properties.

How impactful was this article for you?

Michigan Environment Watch

Michigan Environment Watch examines how public policy, industry, and other factors interact with the state’s trove of natural resources.

Michigan Environment Watch is made possible by generous financial support from:

Our generous Environment Watch underwriters encourage Bridge Michigan readers to also support civic journalism by becoming Bridge members. Please consider joining today.

Only donate if we've informed you about important Michigan issues

See what new members are saying about why they donated to Bridge Michigan:

  • “In order for this information to be accurate and unbiased it must be underwritten by its readers, not by special interests.” - Larry S.
  • “Not many other media sources report on the topics Bridge does.” - Susan B.
  • “Your journalism is outstanding and rare these days.” - Mark S.

If you want to ensure the future of nonpartisan, nonprofit Michigan journalism, please become a member today. You, too, will be asked why you donated and maybe we'll feature your quote next time!

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Pay with PayPal Donate Now