Lansing hopes other cities will prevent water crisis with a proactive approach

LANSING *WJRT) (10/08/19) - In the wake of Flint's water emergency, Michigan really beefed-up its rules when it comes to lead.

By the year 2025, we will have the nation's strictest action level at 12 parts per billion.

Also, all lead service lines must be replaced by the year 2040, but one Michigan city was proactive in the fight against lead.

RELATED: Flint water passes quality test thanks to 'extremely protective' measures

Lansing started revamping its infrastructure over 15 years ago.

"We always thought that down the road, there could be a problem with lead service lines. There was talk about it back then, so we decided that we were going to be proactive. We never had an issue, but we never wanted an issue," Dick Peffley said. Peffley is the General Manager for the Lansing Board of Water & Light.

From 2004 to 2016, they replaced over 12,100 lead service lines, costing $44.5 million. As the project continued, they even found an innovative way to replace the lead service lines.

"We came up with a special cutter head that we actually made here that allowed us to just dig a hole in the street and then go in your basement, and we would pull the cable through the old pipe and then hook it to the new pipe and pull it backwards. it would pull the lead service out and pull the new copper service in, so we didn't have to disturb your lawn, the sidewalk, the trees, and it cut the price down because of restoration and time."

That's a method Peffley says took about five years to perfect, and he's willing to share that and other useful information. Today, he says cities across the country call and ask him to share his experience. He says he hopes others continue to be proactive, something the state as a whole plans to do.

"We're trying in 20 years to have no more lead service lines in the state, which is pretty ambitious. It's an expensive proposition, and the communities are feeling the weight of that right now. We're partnered with them and the state, and we're going to figure it out. It's a worthwhile challenge. It's a worthwhile goal, and we're going to get there," Drinking Water and Environmental Health Division Director Eric Oswald said.

Peffley added some of the obstacles which include finances, logistics, and repairs.

As for advice, he says call someone who's done it and pick their brain instead of reinventing the wheel.

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