President Barack Obama on Jan. 16 issued an emergency declaration that makes available federal aid for the drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan. AWWA CEO David LaFrance released the following statement in response to the action.
“The American Water Works Association applauds President Obama for signing an emergency declaration that makes available federal aid for the drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan. As we explore how the water quality problems could have been prevented, the near-term focus should remain on assuring safe and affordable water service to the people of Flint.
“It may be some time before all the facts surrounding Flint are understood. However, there are a few lessons that seem apparent. First, water chemistry is complex. When a community changes water sources or water treatment, unintended consequences can occur. Water systems must be alert to these potential issues and have plans in place to address them.
“Second, affordability will become a significant issue as we renew our aging water infrastructure. AWWA’s 2012 Buried No Longer report
showed that repairing and expanding drinking water infrastructure in the United States will cost more than $1 trillion over 25 years, an expense that will be largely borne by water customers. This figure does not include the cost of removing lead service lines on private property.
“Water service is priced well below its value, but there are still families that struggle to meet essential needs. In many cases, utilities and customers will have to work collaboratively to remove lead service lines. There may be opportunities to expand existing government assistance programs to mitigate costs.
“Third, the experience of Flint underscores the importance of public communications about lead risks. Water utility customers should know how to determine if they have lead service lines, the benefits of removing lead service lines, and the steps to protect themselves and their families from lead exposure.
“AWWA is committed to helping water utilities, elected leaders and customers in applying these and other lessons from the crisis in Flint.”
Established in 1881, the American Water Works Association is the largest nonprofit, scientific and educational association dedicated to managing and treating water, the world’s most important resource. With approximately 50,000 members, AWWA provides solutions to improve public health, protect the environment, strengthen the economy and enhance our quality of life.