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Flint city council feeling bullied by state over tap water contract

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

Flint City Council members are accusing state officials of trying to bully them into signing a 30-year contract for the city’s tap water source.

This week, both sides were in federal court, working with a mediator to reach a deal for the city to continue getting its drinking water from the Great Lakes Water Authority.  

The authority has been providing Flint’s tap water for nearly two years, in the wake of the city’s lead tainted tap water scandal.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver and state officials have endorsed the 30-year GLWA contract.   However, city council members have balked at giving their consent, mainly out of concern about future water rate increases. For months, the city council has tried to renegotiate the contract.

Today, council members held a two-hour, closed door executive session to discuss the mediated talks and their legal options. 

City council president Kerry Nelson is frustrated with the state’s position on the contract.

“What we want to see from them is cooperation.  And we’re not getting it.   They won’t meet us halfway on anything,” says Nelson. “We are just not going to allow the state to force anything down our throats.”

Council members are worried about future water rates increases.

In June,state officials sued, claiming  thatwithout a long-term deal in place, Flint was in violation of a lawsuit settlement, an EPA order and the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The dispute may have to be settled by a federal court. 

Earlier this month, the Flint city council approved a one-month extension of the current temporary contract with GLWA, keeping the water running through the end of October.

But officials with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality say the 30-year deal on the table could lapse this weekend, if the council does not agree to approve it.    

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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