Water authority details role in Flint’s move to river

Re: The Jan. 20 op-ed in the Detroit News online “Gov. Snyder not to blame in Flint crisis”: In response to this and other false claims I would like to take an opportunity to clear up obvious misconceptions some have relating to the Karegnondi Water Authority.

KWA was formed in response to unsustainable double-digit rate increases each year by the City of Detroit, levied against Flint and Genesee County water customers.

This, along with a lack of reliability of Detroit’s aging pipeline, and the fact Detroit Water and Sewerage Department publicly acknowledged that a second pipeline had to be built to maintain the water system, made building our own pipeline an advantageous and sound economic decision.

The false claims made in the op-ed, as well as confusion over when and how Flint made its switch to the Flint River, echo misinformation surrounding KWA. Let’s examine the true timeline of KWA, Flint and Flint joining the Flint River.

Flint joining KWA was never contingent on Flint going to the Flint River as a temporary water source, and had no part in the negotiations and agreement finalizing the move toward KWA.

In fact, when the Flint City Council voted 7-1 in March of 2013 to join KWA, a temporary switch to the Flint River was never considered.

After Flint made the decision to join KWA, DWSD immediately issued a termination letter to Flint, and by extension, Genesee County customers.

It was this decision by DWSD which truly began the process of Flint moving to the Flint River. My office of the Genesee County Drain Commissioner chose to renegotiate with Detroit and have our customers remain on DWSD water until the KWA pipeline treatment plant is complete.

The City of Flint, with the blessing of the emergency manager, chose a path which culminated with them drawing water from the Flint River for its drinking supply.

It was KWA’s expressed desire that both Flint and Genesee County remain on DWSD until KWA was completed. This would have ensured no interruption in Flint customers’ water source.

To say that the Karegnondi Water Authority was the cause of Flint’s water crisis is not only disingenuous, but a falsehood. Flint ultimately had the option to continue receiving Detroit water, just as we at the county level did. Unfortunately that did not occur. Whether that’s a result of the city, the state, or both is unclear, but it was not a result of KWA.

When completed, KWA will give Flint the same water that Detroit uses for its source, at a much fairer price. My focus, and the focus of my office, will remain on achieving that goal as efficiently as possible.

Jeff Wright, Genesee County drain commissioner