FLINT, MI — A top aide to Gov. Rick Snyder says the state should support the city as it decides how to best excavate water service lines.
Rich Baird, senior adviser to Gov. Rick Snyder, speaks with attorneys and others during a recess on July 25 during the preliminary examination of Nick Lyon, Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services director, in Genesee District Court in Flint in this Flint Journal file photo. (Jake May | MLive.com).
The comments come after weeks of tension between city and state officials over the practice of hydro excavation, a relatively inexpensive process of clearing dirt from around buried service lines with high-pressure water and vacuums to determine what they are composed of — lead or other materials.
Flint Mayor Karen Weaver halted hydro excavation in June, comparing the process to Russian roulette because the process has missed some lead and galvanized material by exposing less of the service line than traditional excavation.
The state has maintained hydro excavation is as safe as traditional digging but far less costly and estimated Weaver’s decision could unnecessarily cost taxpayers an additional $14.6 million.
“We want to support the city in whatever the best and right way is …,” Baird said Friday. “If we understand that the splicing issues require a bigger cut … then we’re going to support a bigger cut.
“If that cut can be done with a hydrovac and it still provides comfort, wonderful…but our position should be to support the city in getting what we started to do done — getting all the dangerous lines, galvanized and lead and any splicing or anything out of the ground and giving the residents the comfort they deserve after the trauma they have endured,” he said.
Earlier in Friday’s meeting, Weaver said she’s tired of fighting with the state over the issue.
“I wish we were sitting down together at the table saying how do we fix this … and not keep arguing …,” she said. “I’m not going to forced or bullied or talked about in the media … That’s not going to push me aside.”
State and federal funds are being used to replace lead and galvanized steel service lines across the city, one requirement of a lawsuit settlement agreement between the state, the city, the Concerned Pastors for Social Action and others.
The agreement requires that up to $97 million be set aside to do the service line work, which includes identification of the material each line is made of.
Unlike galvanized and lead lines, copper pipes were not damaged by Flint’s corrosive water during the city’s water crisis and are not being replaced.