How the BWL has been replacing lead pipes

Posted: 7:26 PM, Jan 20, 2016
Updated: 2016-01-21 08:30:07-05

BWL crew member Luis Flores explained, "We dug it up here and we dug it up over there. We cut it, inserted the cable through here. And, it'll go through the old lead line. And then, we'll pull on that cable and as it's pulling the old lead out, we're inserting a new copper line."

Then, the new copper line is connected to the water main in the street and the meter at the curb.

"We've got a 3, 4 man crew," Flores explained. "We've got a truck driver, we've got a back hoe operator, we've got a mechanic that works outside and we've got a mechanic that works inside."

So far, crews have replaced 13,500 and they've got 500 left. The project is expected to be complete by the end of 2017.

"Home by home, business by business, starting in 2004 with those critical customers of hospitals and daycare centers and nursing homes, so that we could assure our customers that the water they're pulling from their faucet is clean and healthy," BWL Executive Director of Public Affairs, Stephen Serkaian, said.

The new pipes aren't the only way the BWL is making sure your water is safe from corrosion. There are two plants where Serkaian tells us the water pulled from the Saginaw Aquifer is first treated.

"There the water is softened and treated with corrosion control chemicals that coats our pipes with phosphates," he said. "And, it's a protective coating that prevents leaching of copper and other elements into the water supply."

A coat that's made the water flowing through the 500 lead pipes still in use, as well as the new pipes.

"Safe, it's clear when it comes out of the faucet, it's good tasting," Serkaian said. "Our water meets or exceeds Federal and State quality standards."

And, to keep that up, the utility will continue testing it multiple times a day, 365 days a year.

The 14-year project cost the BWL $42 million. So far, it's uncertain how much the pipe replacement will cost Flint. We'll have to wait and see what they dig up.

The BWL did tell us it's willing to make water utility experts available to help the city.