Jun 26, 2020

Team Releases Flint Water Service Line Material Maps

An interactive Flint Water Service Line Materials Map is now available

water service lines

NRDC’s Flint team and data scientists Jake Abernethy, Georgia Tech and Eric Schwartz, University of Michigan have created the online, interactive Flint Water Service Line Materials Map.  

This allows Flint residents to find out the latest information about the known or likely composition of their home water pipes, according to NRDC’s Flint team.

The release of the map coincides with the restarting of Flint’s service line replacement program, according to NRDC. The project was paused due to Michigan’s COVID-19 restrictions. Flint residents must also grant the City permission to inspect their water service lines and to replace lines that are made of lead or galvanized steel, which comes at no cost for residents.

Residents can use the Flint Water Service Line map website to: discover the current pipe material at their homes; to find the date of last pipe inspection at their address; to link to the City’s inspection permission form; and to access resources for steps residents can take if their homes have lead water lines.

Flint’s information about water line materials for many homes was scattered across 45,000 individual index cards, according to NRDC. The team collaborated with the data technology company Captricity, Abernethy, Schwartz, and their colleagues to scan the cards and used artificial intelligence to help make handwritten and smudged notes legible.

According to NRDC, the index card information dated back to 1910 was often incomplete. To navigate this barrier, the team developed a mathematical model that used all available information about Flint homes to estimate the likelihood of that home having a lead water pipe. There is still work to update and refine the model. 

“We were able to help move the City of Flint from a jumble of 45,000 hand-written index cards to a data-driven modeling approach to locating likely lead lines, and now Flint residents have a user-friendly online map of up-to-date lead pipe locations,” said the Flint team. “If Flint can identify its water pipe materials and its citizens can easily access this information, then the same can be done in other cities.” 

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