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Flint city council has questions about proposed upgrade to city water plant

Inside the Flint water treatment plant.
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
Inside the Flint water treatment plant.

Flint city council members say they need to know more about plans to upgrade the city’s water plant.

Mistakes made treating water drawn from the Flint River resulted in corrosive water damaging the city’s pipes. The damaged pipes leeched lead into Flint’s tap water.  

More than a year after the city’s drinking water source was switched back to treated water from Detroit, tests still show elevated levels of lead in the tap water of many Flint homes. 

Flint will eventually switch to a new water source. Later this year, a short pipeline will be built to connect Flint’s water plant to the Karegnondi Water Authority pipeline, which stretches from Lake Huron to Genesee County. 

But before Flint can start using KWA water, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants to make sure the city’s water plant can properly treat raw water from Lake Huron. 

A consultant’s report says the needed upgrades to the plant and the construction of a backup reservoir will cost more than $100 million. The money would largely come from the federal government, though the cost of the backup water source would not be. 

Mark Adas is Flint’s city engineer. He says the city is still working on the plan to be submitted to the EPA next month. 

“It’s a big juggling act,” admits Adas. “Frankly, we’re trying to get the most bang for the dollar. The best quality water we can for each dollar we get in.”

However, Flint city council members would like to have a better idea of the plan, as well as the timetable.

The consultant’s report predicts it will take until late 2019 to complete the upgrade.  

City council president Kerry Nelson is left with more questions about how long Flint residents will have to wait for clean water.

“I’m still not hearing with all the upgrades ... that we will have water that you can go to your faucet and turn on without a filter … that’s greatly concerning to me,” says Nelson.

Nelson is also wondering if the city will continue to get its tap water from Detroit beyond this year.

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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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