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Next 2 months crucial for Detroit water system's future

The next two months will be crucial in determining the long-term future of Detroit’s water and sewerage system.

Detroit owns and operates the municipal system that serves more than three million people in southeast Michigan. It’s been under federal oversight for wastewater violations since 1977.

Last week, federal district judge Sean Cox gave officials 60 days to come up with a plan for long-term compliance. The Judge says that will likely include remedies that could override local laws, and breach union contracts.

Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh is one of the people tasked with crafting a plan. He says the Council will “fight to the death” to make sure the water system remains city-owned and operated.

“But at the same time, we want to be in compliance. We want to get out from under this judge’s order, and we want our water to be safe, and our sewage disposal to be safe as well.”

Pugh says the department’s ongoing violations result from slow purchasing and hiring practices. But he thinks those problems can be fixed without compromising Detroit’s control, or overriding union contracts.

The City Council met in closed session to discuss the issue Tuesday. Pugh says the officials in charge of making a long-term plan--himself, City Council President Pro-Tem Gary Brown, a Mayoral designee, and member of the Water Board--will have an initial meeting with Judge Cox on Friday.

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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