Report: Flint Water Rates Rapidly Increasing

According to a report by The Detroit News, residents of Flint, Mich., could see their water rates double in the next five years. Flint, a city known for being economically depressed and for its ongoing water crisis due to lead in drinking water, is already hampered with some of the highest water rates in the country.flint-tower

Under the new Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA), the municipal company responsible for distributing water services in parts of Michigan including Flint, the amount city residents pay for water will rise significantly, according to officials with the Flint Water Interagency Coordinating Committee. The news was announced at the committee’s meeting on Friday.

Jeff Wright, KWA’s chief executive officer, said the amount Flint pays will likely rise substantially for several reasons. Among those is the fact Flint has not passed on all of the rate increases previously handed down by the Great Lakes Water Authority, which is its current provider.

Instead, city officials have tapped Flint’s water and sewer fund to offset the GLWA’s increases and keep from passing them on to residents. With that fund depleted, Flint may be forced to see a rapid increase that would bring them more in line with actual water prices.

The typical Flint resident is currently charged about $53.84 per month on the water portion of their bill, not counting sewer costs, according to a report prepared by Raftelis Financial Consultants of Missouri and released in May. That report also warned of projected bills doubling during the next five years without action to upgrade the system and address fixed costs.

As a result, the typical water portion of a residential bill is estimated to rise to $110.11 per month by fiscal year 2022 “if no action is taken” to address various issues, according to the report.

Starting in April 2014 when Flint was under the control of a state-appointed emergency financial manager, Flint spent 18 months drawing its water from the Flint River. The move was intended to provide cost savings after decades spent as customers of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department — now known as GLWA.

Once the newly formed KWA came online, Flint expected to hook into the system and have greater control over its water situation. But in that 18-month period, state and city officials failed to treat the river water with corrosion controls, which experts believe resulted in lead contamination and, possibly, a spike in cases of Legionnaire’s disease. In October, Flint was hurriedly switched back to GLWA to get safe water back in to homes until KWA was ready.

Michigan Treasurer Nick Khouri acknowledged the impending rate increase last week, but said that under GLWA, the rates “would have been even higher.”

KWA officials have projected their system would save Flint roughly $600 million over the course of 30 years. Another cost savings issue discussed by committee members is addressing the numerous leaks that plague the city’s water delivery system.

JoLisa McKay, Flint’s utilities director, said her resources are stretched thin in an attempt to meet mandates handed down by the federal government. “We’re forced to do only what the EPA requires us to do,” she told the committee. “We need other resources to be able to attend to these problems.”

Information in this story was first reported by The Detroit News.

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