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Flint council members extend deadline for pipeline decision

Michigan Municipal League

Flint City Council members have delayed a decision on a new 30 year contract with the Great Lakes Water Authority to provide drinking water to the city. That’s the authority that currently provides water to most of southeast Michigan, including Flint. 

Ideally, council members say the city would switch to the Karegnondi Water Authority, which recently built a pipeline to Lake Huron through the thumb. However, to switch to the Karegnondi Authority, the city would have to spend 50 to 60 million dollars to build a water treatment plant.

So instead, the city has investigated staying with the Great Lakes Water Authority. But a proposed contract with that authority is also raising concern, because it locks the city into a 30 year contract for water, and some council members say it would give the GLWA authority over the Karegnondi pipeline.

Eric Mays is a councilman who voted in favor of the contract with the GLWA. He said the city is stuck between a rock and a hard place.

“I think we are at a point right now where politically, strategically, and economically we have squandered sixty or more days, particularly my council colleagues, and we’re not doing all we should do to make some decisions and move forward.”

Mays said the he wishes there was a way the city could hold on to the Karegnondi Water Authority.

“My concern is that I didn’t want to enter into a deal that gives away a completed asset now. To me the Karegnondi Water Authority, the new pipeline, even though it’s a pipeline without a treatment plant, it’s a great asset.”

But, Mays said, the council and the city are running short on options.

“Flint is between a rock and a hard place. Right now we only have one real water source we can use, that’s the one we’re on. I don’t think we’re being forced to do anything we only have one choice immediately right now in the short term.”

The decision to postpone could initiate legal action as well. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality have threatened legal action if the city doesn’t accept the 30 year contract.

The council's vote temporarily extends the current contract with GLWA until September 30th, when the council will once again have to make a decision.