New map shows where lead water pipes remain in Flint


FLINT, MI — Residents of Flint can now see if their home has been checked for lead pipes or the likelihood their home has one.

New map shows which Flint houses have copper pipes, known to be lead, have a high probability of having lead, medium probability of having lead, low probability of having lead, or unable to verify a water account. It was created by the Flint team at the Natural Resource Defense Council and independent data scientists Jared Webb, Eric Schwartz, and Jake Abernethy. Map can be found here.

As of March 20, the city had checked 25,409 homes for lead or galvanized pipes. Of these houses, 9,554 pipes were replaced. The city estimates that the project is 90% complete with 3,000 additional homes to verify. Flint’s communications director, Marjory Raymer, said officials were aware of the map but the city had not verified it.

The replacement of the water pipes is mainly financed by a settlement of $ 97 million from affected pastors where NRDC lawyers represented residents of Flint.

Stacy Woods, a data scientist for the NRDC, said the map was created because residents have a right to know the materials of the pipes that bring water into their homes.

“We believe the Flint pipe data belongs to the people,” Woods said.

The map shows the current condition of the water lines in every house in Flint, according to Webb.

“Verified materials refer to service lines that have been excavated and visually inspected. When these are not available, we assign a risk category from our mathematical models, ”said Webb.

The map was made using information gathered by the city when inspecting residents’ homes for lead or galvanized steel pipes.

“This map shows the tremendous progress the city has made in replacing major service lines, and we look forward to working with the city as it continues its work,” said Schwartz.

Data scientists began working with the Town of Flint on the Pipe Replacement Project in 2016. Part of that work included creating internal maps that guide contractors to homes most at risk of having pipes. lead or galvanized steel.

“However, it wasn’t until (2019) when we decided to make the information publicly available that we realized how inadequate our internal maps were for a general audience,” Webb said.

Along with the NRDC, the data scientists created a map to visually communicate the progress of the project and where the risk remains.

The map is updated as the city passes on the information it uncovers over the course of the project, according to Webb. Residents are encouraged to submit corrections which will be incorporated into the map. Flint is expected to complete its pipe replacement program this year.

“Which means time is running out for the residents of Flint to grant the town permission to inspect their water pipes,” Woods said.

Residents are entitled to a free pipe replacement if their pipes are lead or galvanized steel. Homeowners should give work crews permission to do the work and be home when the service lines are excavated and replaced, if necessary.

Mayor Sheldon Neeley encourages all residents to participate in the service line replacement project.

“We need the help and cooperation of the residents. I urge all households to participate in the service line replacement project. It is for your well-being, that of your family and that of our entire community for generations to come. “

In addition to seeing the pipe material in their homes, the map’s website links to the city’s inspection clearance form. They can also access resources on steps they can take to protect themselves and their families if their home has lead pipes.

The city is using a predictive model created by data scientists to guide the pipeline project.

“Our model uses historical service line information and publicly available information about each plot to make predictions,” said Webb.

Flint first used the model in 2016, but stopped referring to it to plan replacements in 2018 when AECOM, a Los Angeles-based engineering company took over FAST Start, the city’s pipeline replacement program. Of the 10,531 properties that were excavated in 2018, Flint found and replaced approximately 1,567 lead or galvanized accuracy rate of 15 percent.

By an amendment approved by the court, signed by US District Judge David Lawson on March 26, Flint should use the data-driven model to find the lead service lines.


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