BWL helping Flint figure out how to replace lead

Posted at 8:19 AM, Feb 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-10 08:19:39-05

When the Lansing Board of Water and Light (BWL) first started replacing lead pipes with copper ones 12 years ago, the process was slow and messy.

"We would take a back hoe and go out in the street and just dig a trench all the way to the customer's house, through the sidewalk," BLW General Manager Dick Peffley said.

It tore up yards and took eight to nine hours.

So the utility company developed a faster, more efficient way.

"Then we learned that we could pull the pipe underground," Peffley said.

BWL now digs a hole in the street, pulls the old pipe out and slides the new one in. The new process costs about $3,500, the old one was about $8,000.

A team of BWL employees is taking the knowledge and experience BWL has gained from replacing lead service lines for over a decade to Flint. The city is trying to replace its 15,000 service lines.

"We've been doing it since 2004, so we can just share that expertise with them," Peffley said. "Save them the learning curve because they want to do a bit more of a fast track."

Flint hopes to replace all of its lead piping in a year. Lansing has taken 12 years to replace 13,500 lead lines, and will replace the remaining 650 by June 2017.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver announced today the Fast Start Plan - the estimated $55 million plan to remove and replace the lead pipes in the city.

"We deserve new pipes. That's the only way this community is going to be confident and people will stay here and people will come," Weaver said. "We have to get new pipes."

BWL management will help in a consulting role, but Flint workers will be on the ground replacing the pipes, not BWL employees.