Detroit offers to reconnect water service to Flint

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — The city’s Water and Sewerage Department has offered to reconnect water service to Flint amid concerns over that city’s water quality.

It’s a proposal, however, that a Flint city analysis concludes would cost Flint an additional $12 million per year.

DWSD Director Sue McCormick extended the invitation following complaints by some Flint residents that the water there was causing skin problems for some children.

“We at DWSD take very seriously the matter of drinking water quality, and we are as concerned as you must be by the continued quality issues faced by the city and the concerns expressed by your citizens,” McCormick wrote. “We are confident that DWSD can provide you with a solution for reliable, safe, high quality water on an expeditious timeline.”

In the Jan. 12 letter, McCormick notes that DWSD has monitored the water quality issues that have troubled Flint since the spring.

Flint switched from using Lake Huron as its drinking water source in April. The city plans to use the Flint River as its source until the end of 2016, when the Karegnondi Water Authority expects to complete construction of a Lake Huron water pipeline.

“Please know that DWSD is ready, willing and able to resume service to the city if you so desire,” the letter says.

McCormick added if Flint is interested in a long-term arrangement with DWSD, the service can be immediately connected with no additional charge. The same expired contract rate that Flint had been paying in April would apply, but would be modified to reflect a 4 percent increase experienced by all other wholesale customers in July, she wrote.

The resulting structure is a fixed, monthly rate of $846,700 and a commodity rate of $14.92 per thousand cubic feet of water, she wrote.

Greg Eno, a spokesman for DWSD, said that as of Tuesday the department hadn’t received a formal response from Flint.

But Jason Lorenz, a public information officer for Flint, pointed Tuesday to a notice on the city’s website that addresses the offer from DWSD.

A city analysis of the DWSD proposal concludes that Flint’s costs would increase by more than $12 million per year at the rates proposed. That increase, he added, has the potential to be even higher, as proposed rates are subject to change after July 1.

“This increase in costs would not be in the best interests of the city or its water users, as the city is committed to assuring safety and improving water quality by following its current plan, and reconnecting to DWSD would likely require deferment of existing capital improvements or an additional increase in rates,” Lorenz says.

Flint officials maintain the city’s water is safe to drink and they are working to improve water quality. On Wednesday they will host a presentation in the City Hall Dome to inform the public on water treatment, distribution and the steps being taken to ensure citizens get water that meets standards.

The city notified water customers in recent weeks that Flint is in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act because of elevated levels of a disinfection byproduct. In the meantime, Flint is accepting bids through Monday for a consultant in treatment systems that use river water.

The city wants the selected firm to review the water treatment process and distribution system, as well as make and help implement recommendations in compliance with state and federal regulations.

The Associated Press contributed.