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Michigan lead pipes must be replaced, Bernero gives advice

Posted: 9:52 AM, Mar 14, 2019
Updated: 2019-03-14 13:52:16-04

LANSING, Mich. — Local governments are trying to figure out how they can afford to meet Michigan's strict new drinking water regulations.

The new rules came in response to the Flint Water Crisis and require public utilities to dig up lead service lines and replace them.

Lansing got it done before the new rules, finishing three years ago.

FOX 47's Cryss Walker caught up with former Mayor Virg Bernero who says he has a blueprint that can save cities time and money.

A 12-year process with a $42 million price tag.

That's what former Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero says it took to free the city of lead pipes.

“It was built into the structure to the water rates and the work was done”, Bernero told Cryss Walker.

Lansing is now ahead of the curve after the city removed the last lead pipe in 2016 under Bernoro's Administration.

But many municipalities are being met with the task of rebuilding underground to comply with Michigan's new drinking water standards.

“Some communities aren't exactly sure where the lead pipes are”, Bernero said.

“You go from the best records you can. You know… you test and ultimately you dig.”

The state is giving communities 20 years to get rid of lead pipes. The tougher mandate is in reaction to the Flint Water Crisis.

“I think we need to put the best minds and you know good-hearted people, people of good faith together and say how can we get there over 20 years”, Bernero explained.

“There may be some communities where we should act faster than 20 years by the way, in Flint it was a crisis. It needed to be dealt with immediately.”

The city of Jackson is now working to figure out how to get the job done.

Councilmembers project that it will take $171 million but Bernero says BWL has a threading method that can help cut the costs.

“Instead of digging a trench from one side of the ground and maybe sometimes through the road it would allow them to essentially thread like you would thread a needle and get down there and pull”, Bernero said.

“So you'd dig two holes, essentially, and then pull the lead pipe out and pull the new pipe in.”

The former mayor also advises cities to get multiple estimates and compare costs for the most competitive price.

The state's new regulations went in affect under former Governor Rick Snyder's Administration last year and are considered the strictest in the country.

Under the unfunded state mandate public water systems must start replacing service lines in 2021.