Detroit begins replacing lead pipes as part of new program

Detroiters will be getting a knock at their doors with some unexpected news as some may be on the list to have their lead pipes replaced.

The aging water mains in Detroit are getting an overhaul, and while that happens, many people's lead service lines are being replaced.

"The situation in Flint, once you lose your credibility with a community it is a difficult time getting it back and so Detroit wants to get a head of the curve and get out and educate our customers and let them know what we're doing to be proactive to make sure that never happens again" said Gary Brown, director of the water department.

He says 23 water mains are being replaced right now as they replace those lines as part of a pilot program, the city is picking up lead water lines and picking up the tab too.

"As we go into a neighborhood and we begin to replace the water mains, if they're attached to a lead service line, we offer the homeowner an opportunity to replace the lead service line at our cost," he said.

Shirletta Flake with the water department works with customers who can't pay -- some of the bills from accumulated meter readings add up to too much. 

"If your bill is $1,000 and you pay your 10 percent, we take the $100 and the other $900 that's on that account and we will break that into possibly 12 to 24 months and then you're going to pay that installment agreement amount plus your current bill to actually take care of that until that outstanding balance is taken care of," she said.

Water payment centers have been set up as satellite offices in churches and rec centers as another method to make sure no one is left out to dry.

"The services that we actually offer in our centers -- we are bringing out into the community to bring that service to customers who can't make it into our offices or who do not have the resources to come into our offices," she said.