News Briefs: Federal Bill Authorizes $170M to Aid Flint Water Crisis

In this week’s news briefs, Flint, Michigan, finally gets the federal aid that has been held up in Congress, and a Florida city fires its water utility director following a sewage disaster.
News Briefs: Federal Bill Authorizes $170M to Aid Flint Water Crisis

Interested in Infrastructure?

Get Infrastructure articles, news and videos right in your inbox! Sign up now.

Infrastructure + Get Alerts

After being held up in recent months by continued debate, a bill authorizing emergency funds to address Flint, Michigan’s drinking water crisis has gotten through Congress and received the president’s signature.

President Barack Obama signed the $10 billion Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act last week. It includes $170 million to help Flint deal with its lead pipe issue — $100 million for the Safe Water Drinking Act State Revolving Loan Fund, which Flint could use to replace lead service lines or other infrastructure needs; $50 million for health programs related to lead exposure; and $20 million for loans available through the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, which would be available to Flint as well as other communities dealing with lead contamination issues.

The bill also contained a rider authorizing $558 million for drought relief in California that would steer more water to farmers, ease dam construction, and fund desalination and recycling projects. Obama says it “will help assure that California is more resilient in the face of growing water demands and drought-based uncertainty,” according to an Associated Press report.

However, the rider also drew criticism from some who say it was a giveaway to California farmers and businesses. California Sen. Barbara Boxer and others say the bill undermines endangered species protections for threatened salmon and other fish, and could hurt the fishing industry in California, Oregon and Washington.

Source: Associated Press

Oregon Water Utility Named in Wrongful Death Lawsuit
An Oregon water utility is being sued for nearly $10 million by the children of a 70-year-old woman killed last year when a mudslide tore through her home, according to a report in The Register-Guard. Also identified in the suit are the neighbors of the woman.

Delores Miller’s sons allege that the combined negligence of the Heceta Water People’s Utility District and the couple who lived next door to Miller at the time, William and Gail Munzer, contributed to her death. Miller was crushed to death on Dec. 18, 2015, after part of a private road on the Munzers’ property collapsed, causing debris to flood her home during a period of heavy rain.

The lawsuit blames the water district for failing to properly maintain a waterline running beneath the road, alleging that leakage led to hazardous conditions. The lawsuit also alleges that the Munzers had not properly maintained drainage ditches and other erosion control measures on their property to prevent mudslide dangers.

Source: The Register-Guard

Boston Aims to Improve Work Site Safety With New Ordinance
Boston officials will soon have authority to deny, revoke, or suspend permits for any contractors with poor safety records, according to a Boston Globe report.

The City Council approved the new ordinance last week, which was proposed following the death of two workers in October who were employed by a company with a long history of safety violations. Robert Higgins and Kelvin Mattocks of Atlantic Drain Services died when a waterline burst, flooding the trench they were in and hindering attempts to save them.

The ordinance requires businesses receiving work permits to report their safety record, including any federal violations through OSHA. The city previously did not have the authority to require that history and was not notified of OSHA violations. Now with that information in hand, the city can reject a permit to anyone with a record of unsafe, hazardous, or dangerous practices.

Atlantic Drain Services currently faces tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid fines for violations dating back to at least 2012.

Source: Boston Globe

Florida Water Utility Head Fired in Wake of Sewage Controversy
A Florida community has fired its water resources director and demoted another high-ranking employee in the aftermath of a major sewage problem.

Dating back to August 2015, the city of St. Petersburg has released more than 200 million gallons of sewage into Tampa Bay and other area waterways. In September, when public outcry was at its peak, Mayor Rick Kriseman placed Steve Leavitt, water resources director, and Tom Gibson, engineering department director, on unpaid leave pending an investigation. Those findings, released earlier this month, determined that neither man had tried to keep elected officials in the dark about a 2014 report indicating the city’s sewer system was at the risk of major overflows if the Albert Whitted wastewater plant closed, which ended up occurring the following year. Still, the Tampa Bay Times reported this week that Leavitt had been fired and Gibson was being kept on but demoted.

“We need changes in that department,” Kriseman told the Tampa Bay Times, also noting that the investigation had uncovered “deep-seated” problems in the Water Resources Department.

Source: Tampa Bay Times


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.