Flint’s Status with KWA Pipeline Cloudy
The future of the water supply in Flint, MI, hangs in the balance as the consortium of communities that comprise the Karegnondi Water Authority awaits word from Flint Mayor Karen Weaver on the city’s commitment to the authority.
The KWA communities—Flint, Lapeer, and the surrounding counties of Genesee, Lapeer and Sanilac—chose in 2010 to strike out on their own and leave the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. Construction of a pipeline to carry water from Lake Huron to the KWA area began in 2013.
In 2014, Flint chose to temporarily switch its water supply to the Flint River, as it had terminated its contract with Detroit Water (now Great Lakes Water Authority) and the KWA pipeline was not yet complete. Water from the river, not treated with anticorrosives, proceeded to corrode Flint’s aging pipes, leading to lead in the city’s drinking water and a resulting public health crisis.
Flint has been getting its water from the GLWA again since October of 2015.
Leave or Stay with KWA?
Flint’s commitment came prior to Weaver’s 2015 election as Flint mayor, and Weaver could decide to try to get out of the city’s contract with the KWA and return to GLWA as a permanent supplier, but the authority is warning that such a move could have dire consequences for Flint.
Commissioner Jamie Curtis, of Genesee County, in which Flint is situated, told the Detroit Free Press that Flint’s debt is “heavily heavily secured,” and that Flint “would lose everything they have” if they pulled out of the KWA.
The KWA pipeline is slated to be complete next year.
In the meantime, Michigan news site MLive reported last week that Weaver had failed to file a letter disclosing Flint’s financial state to the KWA pipeline’s lenders, and as a result, the KWA is paying a hiked-up interest rate.
Weaver failed to file a letter disclosing Flint’s financial state to the KWA pipeline’s lenders, and as a result, the KWA is paying a hiked-up interest rate.
The original idea of forming the KWA came in response to rising water charges from Detroit. KWA supporters argue that the project could save the region millions over time. But the crisis in Flint led to a rush on infrastructure updates to fight pipe corrosion, and new EPA requirements that call for the construction of an $11 million pipeline, according to the Free Press.
Flint also needs an emergency backup supply, and all involved have agreed that it can no longer be the Flint River.
If Flint forges ahead with the KWA plan, that backup could potentially be the GLWA. If Flint backs out of KWA, it may need to work out a plan to make KWA, via Genesee County, its backup—unless the city builds its own reservoir, another costly project.
The Flint water crisis led to charges for several government officials, and the takeover of the city’s water testing by the EPA.