More than 19 months after contamination in the water supply prompted an outbreak of lead poisoning in Flint, Mich., the mayor of the ailing industrial city announced a plan Tuesday to begin replacing lead pipes next month.
“In order for Flint residents to once again have confidence and trust in the water coming from their faucets, all lead pipes in the city of Flint need to be replaced,” Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said, according to the Detroit Free Press. The project is estimated to cost $55 million and will likely require funding from the state and the federal government.
Protesters have been calling for the city to replace its aging pipes after they became contaminated with lead following the decision to switch Flint’s water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River to save money. The corrosive river water was not treated with an additive to prevent lead from leaching from the pipes into the water supply.
Following the switch in April 2014, city and state officials denied reports for months that the water was unsafe to drink. Since then dozens of children in Flint have been diagnosed with lead poisoning, which can lead to severe long-term health problems.
Read more: The Poisoning of an American City
City officials project the pipe replacement project will cost around $36 million in labor and an additional $10 million in materials. Officials also said homes with children and pregnant women would be given priority.