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After last minute negotiations, Flint City Council must approve 30-year water deal Tuesday

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
The Flint water treatment plant. Flint will not need to treat drinking water it receives from the Great Lakes Water Authority.

Flint is on the verge of moving ahead with a 30-year drinking water contract with the Great Lakes Water Authority, under an agreement hashed out in federal court Monday.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality says Flint needs to choose a long-term water supplier to move ahead with a lawsuit settlement reached earlier this year. The $97 million settlement lays out a series of measures to mitigate lasting effects of Flint’s water crisis, such as removing the city’s lead service lines.

Currently, the GLWA contract is being presented as the only feasible deal on the table. Mayor Karen Weaver is on board, but the Flint City Council has balked at the deal.

As a result, the city missed a court-ordered deadline to choose a water source last month. That prompted the state to take Flint to court, asking that Weaver be given sole power to make that decision.

But after hearing arguments, Judge David Lawson ordered all parties into last-minute mediation, where they reached a deal Monday evening.

The result is a resolution to accept the GLWA contract, with some additional provisions:

·        Flint will get a seat on the GLWA board. Gov. Snyder will replace his current board appointee with a Flint resident.

·        Flint is relieved of debt service payments to the Karegnondi Water Authority. While under state control, Flint planned to switch to the start-up KWA as its long-term drinking water provider. The ill-fated switch to the Flint River that precipitated the city’s lead-in-water crisis was meant to be a stopgap measure.

·        Flint gains ownership of a 72-inch water pipeline and “a backup water source in the event of an emergency.

·        $750,000 to address delinquent bills and water affordability concerns in Flint.

Judge Lawson expressed reluctance to completely remove Council from the process. But he agreed it was time for Flint to make a decision, and said it made sense to stick with GLWA, Flint’s temporary provider of “finished” drinking water that doesn’t require additional treatment.

“There are a number of health and financial considerations that impact this agreement,” Lawson said. “Flint simply has not made a choice.”

Lawson gave the City Council a deadline of midnight Tuesday to finalize the deal.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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