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KWA to deliver water to customers this weekend

Jacob Carah
Special to The Detroit News

Columbiaville — On tap this weekend: freshly treated water from Karegnondi Water Authority’s new pipeline that pulls from Lake Huron.

Genesee County Drain Commissioner Jeff Wright gave tours of the new water treatment plant on Tuesday.

It’s been a dream to get off Detroit’s water system by many here for more than 14 years.

In celebration of that reality, Genesee County Drain Commissioner Jeff Wright gave an open house and tour of the completed Genesee County Water Treatment Plant on Tuesday.

Wright, standing at a podium near a banner of the facility reading “Our Future,” said the plant is ready to deliver treated water to customers who “will no longer have to worry about double-digit rate increases.”

“This is about our future. This is about protecting and building our economy,” said Wright, throwing up his arms to the crowd gathered inside a tent Tuesday at the facility.

The new, regional water authority is expected to save KWA communities millions of dollars longterm and put an end to high annual rate increases, its supporters say.

But the water system became a controversial one as Flint’s water crisis caused tension among residents as to whether Flint should use water from KWA or continue use from Detroit’s water system as its primary source.

The total cost of the Genesee County Water Treatment Plant and site is around $100 million, officials said.

The plant is in Lapeer County about 20 minutes outside the city of Flint.

The plant tour included stops at two large pipes on either side of the facility: one blue, one green. The blue read in white letters “Fresh Water,” the green, “Raw Water.”

“This particular pipeline — because it has treated and untreated water — brings all kinds of potential for agro-business in the Thumb area and for food processing and green technology in the Flint area,” Wright said.

Wright's view is that many milk producers and food processors in the region will want raw water for their businesses and “they don’t want treated water,” he contends because these industries would have to remove the fluoride, chlorine and other chemicals before use.

“We can provide them with high-quality, raw water at 10 cents on the dollar of what they can buy treated water for,” Wright said. “We think that is going to be a big deal for the area.”

KWA chairman Greg Alexander also said the consistency of lake water is a boon to the communities and industries along the pipeline route like hydroponic growers and farmers.

“Unlike river water for instance, lake water really never changes in its genetic makeup,” Alexander said. “The reason we don’t like to treat river water is because the quality is always changing, if it doesn’t rain for some time, you have a lot of phosphorus, nitrates and always raw sewage.

“If you do have a lot of rain, you get a lot of nitrogen and oxygen, so it’s always changing and becomes a sort of moving target.”

The total cost of the water treatment plant and site is around $100 million, Wright said.

The full cost of the pipeline, according to the water authority and drain commissioner, is $292 million, which is “spread amongst all our partners,” Wright said.

The pipeline under its operating contract will service “17 counties, cities and villages,” Wright said.