• U.S.

Flint Crisis Could Prompt Over $275 Billion in Water Upgrades

2 minute read

The Flint, Mich. water crisis could soon lead water suppliers across the country to spend over a quarter-trillion dollars on infrastructure upgrades, a rating agency said on Friday.

Fitch Ratings said it predicts the cost of replacing an estimated six million lead service lines across the country could exceed $275 billion, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Residents dealt with increased levels of lead in their water supply after the city switched its water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River in mid-2014. The city has since switched its water source, and the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the crisis.

Fitch predicted the $275 billion investment might come soon if the Environmental Protection Agency enforces stricter regulations because of the crisis. The most recent EPA survey estimated that the water industry will need to spend $385 billion on infrastructure improvements by 2030, the Free Press reported.

In its note, Fitch also cited the many lawsuits that have been filed on behalf of Flint residents.

“In light of these lawsuits and the heightened public focus on possible lead contamination, Fitch expects any proposed rule revisions will likely move the industry toward removing all lead service lines,” the rating agency said. “Reprioritizing and accelerating lead pipe replacement would add significant additional capital needs to the sector and could compete with other critical infrastructure projects, including developing sufficient long-term water supplies and replacing aging infrastructure components other than lead lines.”

More Must-Reads From TIME

Write to Katie Reilly at Katie.Reilly@time.com