The water crisis in the city of Flint in the United States could result in stricter rules by the federal government which would force water companies across the country to spend up to US$300 billion for replacing all pipes systems across the country, a study by Fitch Ratings has said.
“Lawsuits filed against the city of Flint, MI and the city of Chicago could have a broad, long-term impact on the entire US water sector,” Fitch Ratings says in its report. “Significant investment in service line replacement also may be forthcoming over the near term, particularly if the Environmental Protection Agency materially alters existing rules.”
According to the study, there are more than six million lead service lines across the country. The EPA current rules on drinking water quality is under revision by the agency in light of the crisis in Flint and other cities. Therefore, according to Fitch, the agency could be moving to replace its drinking water regulation to stricter ones.
“The EPA is considering strengthening the rule sometime later this year or next. 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 study says.
By 2030, more than US$385 billion could be needed to overhaul the entire water system in the United States Fitch said citing a recent survey by the EPA itself and that estimate included only partially replacing the lead pipes.
According to a report by CNN, not one single lead pipe has been replaced in Flint five months after the discovery of the contamination and residents still cannot use the water. Another CNN report said one family of three uses at least 151 bottles of water in a day.
The water crisis in Flint came as a result of switching city’s water source from the Detroit water system to the long-polluted and corrosive Flint River in 2014 in a bid to save money by the state.