Lansing is the Only City in Michigan to Replace Every Lead Service Line. Here’s How It Happened

Former Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero spearheaded the effort to eradicate lead water lines in Lansing. He talks about the resistance he faced, and what he thinks about today’s challenges.

Jake Neher/WDET

Even as the disastrous water crisis in Flint was unfolding, there was a city in Michigan that was well underway replacing the lead service lines that cause so many problems.

For WDET’s Book Club, Detroit Today listeners are reading Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha’s book, “What the Eyes don’t See.” Lansing stands out as one of the only cities in America — and the only one in Michigan — to have replaced every one of its lead service lines, mostly without any interruption to residents homes.  

“We need this to be a priority. The things under the ground can hurt you, and they have,” says Virg Bernero, former Lansing mayor. “The people of Flint should not be complacent.” 

In Lansing, the work was completed before there was a crisis to report. The city reached out to Marc Edwards, a water quality expert at Virginia Tech, to find out more about their water system. A task force was formed and a $42 million was invested in replacing every pipe in the city. Twelve years later, they accomplished their goal.

Bernero joins Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson to talk about that process, the challenges and opposition the city faced and what lessons cities today can take away from their story. 

Click the player above to hear host Stephen Henderson interview former Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero about replacing the city’s lead pipes.


WDET Book Club

WDET’s 2019 Book Club is hosting a Summer Series featuring her Dr. Mona Hanna Attisha’s book, “What the Eyes Don’t See.” Dr. Attisha is a Flint pediatrician from Hurley Medical, who first brought public attention to the discovery of lead-tainted water, which led to the poisoning of Flint children.

As part of the Book Club, WDET’s Detroit Today is traveling across Southeast Michigan discussing water infrastructure, environmental toxins and the health of waterways. Stephen Henderson is also talking about these issues on the air. 

You can join us in that discussion. Read the book and engage with us online, on the radio and at events throughout the region. Here’s how:

Online: Join The WDET Book Club on Facebook where we will post articles and discussion topics throughout the summer. We’ll also invite guests to participate in targeted discussions you can engage in throughout the next couple of months.

On the radio Listen to 101.9 WDET! We’ll have interviews and conversations about Flint then and now, and more conversations about water quality, and trust in government during Detroit Today. You can listen to them on the radio, on demand and on the Detroit Today Podcast.

Follow us on TwitterFollow hashtag Detroit Today where we will tweet our events, our guests and information about issues of safe water in our sinks, streams and lakes..

Events: We will travel to libraries around the region with guests who played a role in the book. They will tell their own stories about their involvement in the Flint water crisis, and we’ll invite local experts to talk about issues affecting our water in each community.  



  • Detroit Today
    Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.
  • Alaina Fruge
    Alaina Fruge is the producer for the WDET Book Club. She's always taking care of business so catch her when you can because you never know which one of her jobs she'll be at.