A black woman-owned construction company has been awarded a federally funded service contract to replace thousands of water pipes in Flint, Michigan.
As part of a $97 million settlement to replace corroded pipes by 2020, the state has contracted WT Stevens Construction, which became a state-certified lead abatement specialty company in 2016, along with three other companies. The companies will replace more than 18,000 pipes across the city, The Network Journal reported earlier this month.
Rhonda Grayer, vice president of the family-owned company, told The HUB Flint that this contract is the “biggest project we’ve done.” WT Stevens’ $10.9 million contract is the largest deal with the city for replacing service lines, according to MLive. It is responsible for addresses in Wards 3, 4, 8 and 9. The city allotted $25 million for the project in total.
Rhonda’s husband, Jeff Gayer, serves as the project manager. He told TNJ that about 800 waterlines have been replaces so far and he hopes to have 6,000 replaced by the end of 2017.
“Our company is usually the only African American-owned business to respond to request for proposals for various Flint city contracts even now after the court rulings related to the water crisis,” he said. “This is a major project that will ensure public safety and start rebuilding trust between the city and the community … something that has been missing awhile.”
He said the goal is to “have all 18,000 lead-corroded residential pipes replaced by December 2019.”
The company has hired about 20 staff members, including ex-offenders and young people, and a video team to document the piping being replaced. Grayer said she’s following the example her late dad and founder of the company set for making a positive impact on the community.
“I will tell you that it is really exciting and the most important part of it is the opportunity to employ people who may not have had other opportunities,” she told The HUB Flint.
It’s been more than three years since the city’s water crisis began. In April 2014, Governor Rick Snyder and other politicians moved to change Flint’s water source from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to the Flint River without properly treating the water or checking it for toxins.
Thousands of children and adults became sick in the predominately black city due to lead poisoning. A drinking water expert said there was a “very strong likelihood” that water from the river led to the “dramatic” increase in cases of a severe form of pneumonia that killed at least 10 people.