Gov aide pitches arranging backup water deal for Flint

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

An adviser for Gov. Rick Snyder has offered to arrange a deal for the city of Flint to purchase treated water from Genesee County on a temporary, emergency basis.

In a letter dated Oct. 11, Special Adviser Rich Baird wrote to Flint Mayor Karen Weaver and Drain Commissioner Jeffrey Wright, noting his concern that the city may lose access to clean drinking water in October 2017.

The city expects to have its water treatment plant ready to treat water from the Karegnondi Water Authority in the spring, however its chosen backup water source, a raw water reservoir, won’t be ready until October 2017. That’s the same time the city loses access to treated water from the Great Lakes Water Authority.

“The city’s backup water source plan is to construct a raw water reservoir to supply the Flint Water Treatment Plant in the event the KWA raw water line was temporarily out of service,” Baird said. “Since the raw water reservoir cannot be constructed by October 2017, an emergency backup plan must be in place.”

The Genesee County Drain Commissioner’s Office plans to have its new water treatment plant ready by October 2017. This would include using the same 72-inch transmission line that the Great Lakes Water Authority uses to supply water to the city of Flint. When the Genesee County Drain Commission begins using the line, the city will lose access to the Great Lakes Water Authority as a primary or backup source, Baird said.

“Toward this end, I am offering to facilitate a discussion with the city and the GCDC about using GCDC finished water to supply the city in a short-term, emergency situation,” Baird said. “There is urgency for this meeting to occur in the near term.”

Baird requested to meet within 30 days.

Flint River water was untreated with corrosion control in 2014 when it switched from Detroit’s water system to the Flint River. Water leached lead into the city’s water system and into service lines leading into homes. Tests later showed high lead levels in some Flint children.

Weaver said Thursday she plans to reach out to the drain commission next week to set up a meeting. She said that while she’s open to having a conversation about the issue, she is focused on the city becoming self sufficient in supplying its own water.

“It’s an interesting idea,” she said. “I’ve always been in favor of us doing our own. Really. Flint doing their own water treatment ... I know they were talking about something temporary. That’s why I say I’m willing to sit down and have a conversation.”

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