Weaver wants to keep Detroit water after lead crisis - WNEM TV 5

Weaver wants to keep Detroit water after lead crisis

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FLINT, MI (WNEM) -

Flint's mayor is recommending that the Michigan city continue getting its drinking water from a Detroit-area system on the long term, following a crisis that left the supply contaminated with lead.

Mayor Karen Weaver's announcement Tuesday is a reversal. Last year, she said the city of 100,000 residents would stick with a plan to draw from a pipeline to Lake Huron that is under construction. But she reevaluated that decision as a condition of receiving $100 million in federal funding to address the man-made disaster.

The state has already contributed millions of dollars to support Flint's water connection to Detroit. However, since the water levels improved, the state stopped that support.

Weaver said she didn't want to subject the residents of Flint to another switch of water sources. 

“This protects residents from any fears or anxieties with another change,” Weaver said. 

Councilman Scott Kincaid said he thinks that's the right call for the short term, but long term options will need to be considered.

"Until we get the lead service lines replaced in the homes because we know that we're getting good quality, clean water right now," Kincaid said.

Weaver also said staying with Detroit's water is less expensive. 

Another potential long term solution was switching to the Karegnodi Water Authority, known as the KWA.

The city is currently in a deal that requires about $7 million in annual payments to support the KWA, but Flint's treatment plant is not ready to handle the KWA's water supply.

In March, the state stopped support of the current supply from Detroit - leaving the city to pick up monthly payments of more than $1 million.

Essentially, Flint is currently paying for two water sources and only using one. Which Kincaid said is not sustainable.

"What is the cost going to be? I mean residents in this community pay the highest water bills in the country and we have to make sure we do everything we can to lower those costs," Kincaid said.

Councilman Wantwaz Davis said it is important to remember the water crisis occurred when the city changed a water supply that was already working.

"We should stick with Detroit. Why try to fix something that is not broke," Davis said.

He said he has concerns about switching to KWA because Flint could possibly lose its stake in the deal.

"If we miss one payment we lose ownership, even over the 34 percent and I just believe that we should become independent," Davis said.

Weaver said so far, 855 service lines have been replaced at Flint homes. Another 230 service lines were investigated. 

The mayor will have to make a final decision in about a month. 

Read the full release from the Mayor below: 

FLINT, MICH. -- Mayor Karen Weaver stood with officials from the City of Flint, State of Michigan, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Great Lakes Water Authority, Genesee County Drain Commission and Karegnondi Water Authority today at City Hall as she announced her recommendation that Flint stay with the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) as its primary source of water and utilize Genesee County as a secondary water source.  

“After months of research, analyzation and collaboration, I believe staying with GLWA as the city’s primary water source is the best option when you consider factors related to public health and when it comes to being fiscally responsible,” said Weaver.  “But, I also think it’s important to hear from the citizens of Flint and get their feedback on the suggested plan before a permanent decision is made, that is why I’m hosting a town hall meeting this Thursday at 5:30 p.m.”

The town hall meeting Thursday, will take place at House of Prayer Missionary Baptist Church located at 1851 W. Carpenter Rd. in Flint. Officials from various agencies will be on hand to answer questions from residents and provide further details about all the water source options considered and why City officials think staying with GLWA is the best option for Flint. 

Weaver noted some of the factors taken into consideration during the press conference Tuesday. She said public health was at the very top of the list.

“Continuing with GLWA means Flint would not have to switch water sources again,” Weaver said. “This will help protect residents from any issues that could occur and it would eliminate the fears or anxieties people may have about another major change taking place with our water.” 

Mayor Weaver also stated the importance of being fiscally responsible and said continuing with GLWA has some cost-saving benefits for the City.

“Sticking with GLWA allows us to use federal dollars from the Drinking Water Revolving Fund Program to update the city’s damaged water distribution system which is aging and deteriorating,” Weaver stated. “This option would also result in the 72-inch transmission line being returned to the city, and residents would also gain access to a low income assistance program to help pay their water bills. While Flint remains ultimately responsible for its 28-year, $7 million average annual bond obligation to the Karegnondi Water Authority, the burden of that debt service will be offset by contract credits Flint will receive based upon transfer of its raw water rights to GLWA.”

City officials also stated continuing with GLWA maintains a known and approved water supply. They said reaching the tentative agreement was a true collaborative effort between the City, County, and State, along with GLWA and KWA to ensure that Flint residents have access to clean, affordable drinking water.
 

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