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Flint mayor agrees to go with KWA pipeline

steve carmody
Michigan Radio
Gov. Rick Snyder (R-MI) listens as Flint Mayor Karen Weaver announces the city will hook up to the KWA pipeline

After months of wrangling, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver is reluctantly agreeing to hook the city up to the new Karegnondi Water Authority pipeline for the city's drinking water.

Emergency managers made the decision to switch Flint’s drinking water to the KWA pipeline as a way to save money. Flint's city council gave its stamp of approval as well. But Flint’s new elected leaders wanted out of the deal because of the cost.

Weaver has spent months looking for a way to extricate the city from the deal that forces Flint to pay $7 million a year to pay off part of the project’s construction costs and gives the city limited say on the pipeline.

But today Weaver conceded the city has no alternative.

“This is where we are and we have to make the best of a situation,” Weaver told reporters at a city hall news conference. “Now it’s time for us to do some things to move forward.”

Genesee County and the state have agreed to chip in some money to pay for the transition. The county has agreed to pick up the engineering costs of connecting the city to the KWA pipeline. The state will provide $4.2 million toward the cost of a $7 million pipeline the city needs.

“I thought it appropriate we come up with an arrangement to support the city in this effort,” said Gov. Rick Snyder. 

The city of Flint still has some expensive decisions to make.

The city must still upgrade its water plant to treat the water from Lake Huron. Mistakes made treating water from the Flint River led to the city’s drinking water crisis.

Flint officials must also decide what their back-up water source should be. Officials have ruled out the Flint River. But there are costs associated with either keeping water from Detroit as a backup or building a reservoir. 

Flint City Councilman Eric Mays has been a frequent critic of the KWA contract. He’s disappointed the state and Genesee County won't be contributing more to help Flint connect to KWA.

“It’s miniscule compared to the money it’s going to take to do a secondary source,” Mays says, referring to the backup drinking water source the city must still identify.

The KWA pipeline is about a mile short of completion, but it will be sometime next year before water will start flowing from Lake Huron.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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