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Genesee County plans to build new pipeline to connect to KWA

steve carmody
Michigan Radio
Sections of pipe used for the newly completed KWA pipeline.

Genesee County plans to build a new section of pipeline, which will allow Flint to continue getting its tap water from Detroit while the county makes the switch to it's newly constructed KWA pipeline.

Flint’s reliance on drinking water from the Great Lakes Water Authority, or GLWA, has prevented Genesee County from pumping drinking water tapping the recently completed Karegnondi Water Authority, or KWA, pipeline from Lake Huron.

Flint returned to buying water from GLWA in 2015 after doctors and scientists demonstrated the city’s drinking water was contaminated with lead after an ill-advised switch to the Flint River while the city waited to join the KWA.

The result is the city of Flint is using a pipeline to get its water from GLWA that Gennesee County was planning to use to get water from the KWA. Flint's water plant is not expected to be ready to begin treating KWA water this year. Flint's switch from GLWA to KWA may not happen until late 2019 or 2020.

So now, Genesee County Drain Commissioner Jeff Wright says the county will build a new seven-mile long section of pipeline to make the connection. The county plans to put the project out for bid with construction starting in May.  The hope is the connector pipe will be complete by this fall.

Wright says building the connector will save the county about $60 million in payments to stay on GLWA over the next few years.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver has been assessing the city's tap water options.

The city issued a statement on the county's decision:

"?The county’s proposed pipeline allows city officials to further consider all alternatives when evaluating its primary and back-up water source selection. Regardless of what the GCDC does, the mayor and other Flint city leaders are obligated to follow their own set of priorities which include first and foremost, the public's health and then cost."

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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