New map shows where lead water pipes remain in Flint

FLINT, MI – Flint residents can now see if their home has been checked for lead pipes or how likely it is they are home.

A new map shows which Flint houses have copper tubing that are known to be lead, have a high chance of having lead, a medium chance of having lead, a low chance of having lead, or not a water account to be able to verify. It was created by the Flint team at the Natural Resource Defense Council and independent data scientists Jared Webb, Eric Schwartz, and Jake Abernethy. You can find the map 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 the project is 90% complete and 3,000 more homes need to be checked. Flint’s communications director Marjory Raymer said officers were aware of the card but the city had not checked it.

The pipeline replacement will be funded primarily through a US $ 97 million settlement for affected pastors where lawyers from NRDC represented Flint residents.

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

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

The map indicates the current water pipe status of each Flint home, according to Webb.

“Verified materials refer to service lines that have been dug up and visually checked. Where these are not available, we specify a risk category from our mathematical models, ”said Webb.

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

“This map shows the tremendous progress the city has made in replacing Lead Service Lines and we look forward to working with the city as it continues,” said Schwartz.

The data scientists began working with the City of Flint on the pipe replacement project in 2016. Part of this work involved creating internal maps that showed contractors which homes were most at risk from lead or galvanized steel pipes.

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

In addition to the NRDC, the data scientists created a map to visually communicate project progress and remaining risks.

According to Webb, the map will be updated when the city releases the information it discovers during the project. Residents will be asked to submit corrections which will be included in the card. Flint is expected to complete its tube replacement program this year.

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

Residents are entitled to a free pipe replacement if their pipes are made of lead or galvanized steel. Homeowners need to give work teams permission to do the job and be home by the time the service lines are dug up and replaced if necessary.

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

“We need the residents’ help and cooperation. I urge all households to participate in the utility exchange project. This is for the good of you, your family and our entire community for future generations. “

The map’s website shows not only the material of the pipes in their homes, but also the city’s inspection permit form. They can also access resources about steps they can take to protect themselves and their families when there are lead pipes in their home.

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

“Our model uses historical information about service lines and publicly available information about each package 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 firm, took over FAST Start, the city’s pipe replacement program. Of the 10,531 properties excavated in 2018, Flint found and replaced approximately 1,567 lead or galvanized pipes – an accuracy of 15 percent.

A court-approved amendment signed March 26 by U.S. District Judge David Lawson requires Flint to use the data-driven model to find lead service lines.

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