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Flint city council grills officials recommending city sign 30-year water deal with GLWA

Consultant john Young stands in front of his Power Point presentation.
steve carmody
Michigan Radio
Consultant John Young explains his recommendation that the city of Flint stay with the Great Lakes Water Authority.

Flint city council members want more information about a deal to keep the city on water from Detroit.

Monday night, council member took turns grilling Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) CEO Sue McCormick and a consultant hired by the state who's recommending Flint agree to sign a 30-year deal to get its tap water from Detroit. The contract is part of a plan that includes tens of millions of dollars in new investment to repair Flint's broken water system. 

It was getting away from Detroit water in 2014 that created Flint’s lead-tainted tap water crisis in the first place. After shutting off the pipeline to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, the city of Flint’s tap water came from the city’s namesake river. But the river water was not properly treatedwith anti-corrosion chemicals. The river water damaged city pipes, which startedleaching lead into Flint’s drinking water. Flint was put back on water from Detroit in the fall of 2015, but city residents are still using special filtersand relying on bottled water.

Consultant John Young was hired by the state to analyze Flint’s drinking water options. He insists going back to Detroit water is Flint’s best option.

“This is the best plan from a public health prospective, from a reliability perspective, from a cost perspective,” says Young. “There is no Plan B that is better.”

But Flint city council members say they want to see the raw data that Young is using. They also want more assurances in the contract that water rates will not skyrocket.  

On her way out of the meeting, GLWA CEO Sue McCormick said they will be “happy to continue to answer questions and respond to any of the concern (the council) may have.”

However, McCormick indicates there’s not much wiggle room when it comes to the type of contract. She says GLWA only handles two kinds of contracts:  1) an emergency contract like the one Flint is receiving water under now or 2) a 30-year deal.

Flint city councilman Wantwaz Davis expects in the end it won’t matter what the city council wants.

“In the end it’s going to be in the RTAB’s hands,” Davis says, referring to the Receivership Transition Advisory Board. The RTAB board is a vestige of Flint’s time under an emergency manager. The board remains the final word on major financial decisions at Flint city hall.   

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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