April 25 marks three years since the city of Flint, Mich., switched its water source from the city of Detroit to the Flint River, causing a massive lead-contamination crisis that has not been resolved, and on Tuesday, the city’s mayor said that switching water sources again as previously planned would be too risky and expensive.
NBC Los Angeles reports that during a news conference with federal, state and local officials, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said, “This protects residents from any potential fears or anxieties that would come from another change in our water source, especially at a time when the water has improved and is now meeting federal and state action level standards. Ensuring the public’s health and safety is our No. 1 top priority.”
The water problems in the city started in April 2014 when the city’s water source was switched as a cost-cutting measure. The river’s highly corrosive water ran untreated through the city’s pipes, causing lead to leach from the pipes into the water supply.
NBC notes that there was also E. coli detected, as well as high levels of a carcinogenic disinfectant by-product.
Last year, Weaver said the city of 100,000 residents would stick with a plan to eventually draw from the new Karegnondi Water Authority pipeline that has been constructed and is being tested. But she re-evaluated that decision as a condition of Flint soon receiving $100 million in federal funding to address the disaster.
Nine options were explored, and Weaver said staying with the Great Lakes Water Authority under a new 30-year contract and using the local county as a backup would be the cheapest, costing $269 million over 20 years. Flint estimates it would save $58 million by not upgrading its own troubled water plant, more when it is closed operationally. The savings could be used to instead update other infrastructure in the aging and deteriorating system, including replacing lead service lines.
While the city would still be on the hook for $7 million in annual bond payments to the KWA, NBC reports that the cost would be offset by credits received from the Detroit-area authority in exchange for receiving Flint’s raw water rights.
There will be a 30-day public comment period, after which officials hope the City Council will approve the deal.
Bob Kaplan, acting regional director for the Environmental Protection Agency, said the agreement is “the best long-term solution.”
Read more at NBC News.