The last thing Flint needs is another upset with its drinking water. But this is what some city officials are moving toward with their failure to approve a 30-year deal with Great Lakes Water Authority — the city’s current, reliable water source. Staying the course is the best decision for the city, yet resistance from the City Council threatens that deal.
The state Department of Environmental Quality filed a lawsuit against the city last Wednesday, and wants the court to declare that the “inaction will result in a violation of applicable law,” therefore forcing Flint to agree to the contract.
“Continued use of that reliable source is necessary to ensure the protection of public health in Flint,” the suit reads.
Although the DEQ’s lack of oversight directly contributed to the Flint water crisis, the department is correct now in asserting failure to stay on the GLWA system presents a risk to public health.
Flint’s city officials have said they will fight the lawsuit and asked for more time to decide whether to approve the contract. But this defiance does not represent the interests of Flint’s citizens. It exposes them to more uncertainty.
Flint Mayor Karen Weaver negotiated a long-term contract with GLWA that would help stabilize the city’s financial position as well as the city’s overall well-being.
“Staying with our water source gives us reassurance our water is good,” Weaver told The Detroit News earlier this month.
The contract would give the city $7 million in annual credit, offsetting any financial advantages to switching to the new Karegnondi Water Authority pipeline. With its accumulated debt of nearly $700,000 in delinquent water bills and its plummeting property values, Flint cannot afford to reject this contract.
City officials have provided no other option to Weaver’s negotiations with the GLWA, but some have said the new KWA pipeline could hold future benefits for the city. But Flint doesn’t need any more shakeups — it needs stability.
Flint is still trying to recover and rebuild trust from the last switch of drinking water sources. Drawing water from the Flint River led to a spike in lead levels in the blood of Flint residents and could be connected to the outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, which is linked to 12 deaths in the Flint area.
Flint has been buying water from GLWA by extending contracts for several months at a time. It’s a trusted water source, and Weaver’s 30-year contract would aid the city in its recovery. But the city council failed to approve it, and members have continued to make excuses for their inaction.
Sticking with the GLWA is the best choice for Flint as it continues its recovery. The council should approve the contract and avoid changing direction yet again, risking the city’s financial security and the well-being of its citizens.