detroit water and sewerage department

Kate Boicourt / IAN

Intense negotiations regarding the future of Detroit’s Water and Sewerage Department continued behind closed doors in federal court Tuesday.

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr is pushing hard for a deal that would largely transfer control of the water department to a regional water authority.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The rates Flint residents pay for water are going to be reviewed. 

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Under a plan being pushed by Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department would be overseen by a regional authority - something officials in cities and townships around Detroit have wanted for some time.

The Detroit News reports Orr's office is "fast-tracking" the creation of a regional authority:

Detroit’s emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, has been working with regional officials and water department board members on a plan. The authority would either own or lease the department, collect revenue from water bills and make payments to the city. The annual revenue could range from $60 million to $120 million, said Bill Nowling, Orr’s spokesman.

The move is critical to Orr’s bankruptcy strategy in part because it would provide the city with a secure revenue stream, Nowling said.

Detroit Water and Sewerage is undergoing a massive downsizing effort. The News reports the goal is to reduce the size of the workforce by 80% by 2017.

There are no details on how the regional authority would be structured yet.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A quarter billion dollar water pipeline project broke ground today near the Lake Huron shoreline.

The source of the water was on the minds of the people at the groundbreaking, including Pastor Floyd Fuller who gave the invocation.

““Drink from your own cistern.   Running water from your own well,” Fuller said, quoting from the Book of Proverbs. 

The well in this case is not a well but a lake.  Lake Huron to be specific. 

Kate Boicourt / IAN

Detroit’s emergency manager has a plan for the city’s water department—but not everybody likes it.

Kevyn Orr proposes leasing the system to a “Metropolitan Area Water and Sewer Authority” as it part of a larger restructuring of city operations.

NEFCO / YouTube

Detroit has budgeted $683 million to move forward with plans to build a biosolids dryer facility in the city. If built, it is expected to be the largest facility of its kind in the United States.

What exactly is a "biosolids dryer facility," you ask?

It converts human waste materials into energy or fertilizer.

Whether you view this as innovative green technology or just plain gross, the contract is a big deal for Detroit. 

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The city of Flint is dumping its contract with the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.

Flint emergency manager Ed Kurtz signed a contract today to get the city’s water from a new pipeline that’s being built from Lake Huron to Genesee County.

Officials with Detroit's system made a final offer to try and keep Flint’s business. But Kurtz says the numbers were “unreliable.”

“After the first year…for 29 years they could raise those rates…do any kind of capital expenditures…anything they wanted to do…and just add them to our bill,” says Kurtz.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Today is the last chance for Detroit water department officials to make their case to keep Flint as a customer.

The state Treasury Department gave the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department until this evening to present its final best offer to the city of Flint.

Flint has been a DWSD customer for many years. But Flint city officials say they want to get their tap water from a new Karegnondi Water Authority pipeline being built from Lake Huron to Genesee County.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The city of Flint is reducing the water bills for its poorest residents.

Beginning July 1st, city homeowners who already qualify for Flint’s poverty exemption for property taxes will get a $53 break on their monthly water bills.  According to the city of Flint:

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A battle is brewing over where the city of Flint will get its tap water.

Last month, the Flint city council voted to join a project to get fresh water from Lake Huron.   Supporters say the project will save the city millions of dollars by replacing its current water source: the city of Detroit.

But the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is asking the state Treasury Department to veto the plan.

Bill Johnson is with the DWSD. He says state officials need to step in to prevent a “water war.”

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Flint city council has voted to get its future water supply directly from Lake Huron.

The city council last night committed Flint to a contract to get 16 million gallons of water a day from a new pipeline. 

Flint has been getting its tap water from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.   But that has become more and more expensive in recent years. 

Supporters, like Flint Mayor Dayne Walling, say the new Lake Huron pipeline would be cheaper. 

“We think that having a mid-Michigan system makes more economic sense long term,” says Walling. 

Kate Boicourt / IAN

Highland Park’s mayor say the city’s water treatment plan will remain shut down indefinitely, while crews are working to repair serious problems that have plagued the facility for months.

Problems range from accumulating sludge to non-functioning valves and water meters. Windom says water quality has not been affected, but the problems are so pervasive that he shut the plant down pre-emptively.

Highland Park mayor DeAndre Windom says while the repairs are ongoing, the Detroit water and sewerage department will provide water directly to Highland Park residents.

Kate Boicourt / IAN

The Detroit City Council has unanimously rejected a controversial contract to overhaul the city’s water department.

Department officials wanted to award a $48 million contract to Minneapolis-based EMA Consultants.

The company proposed to lay off about 80% of the department’s workforce, in what officials called a necessary move to halt future rate increases.

But critics said the plan would do little more than gut and privatize the water system.

Photo courtesy of Birminghan Public Schools

The Detroit City Council has delayed voting on a contract to restructure the city’s water department.

Detroit’s board of water commissioners and Mayor Dave Bing have already approved a plan to contract Minneapolis-based EMA Consulting.

That firm plans to cut up to 80% of the water department’s workforce, and create “efficiencies” by privatizing many so-called “non-core” functions.

But after hearing public concern and anger about the plan, the Council decided to postpone a vote on the $48 million EMA contract.

In part, that’s because the Environmental Protection Agency asked the city not to take action before it can review the plan.

Councilman Ken Cockrel Junior says he want to hear from the EPA before moving ahead.

“The EPA has said they want 45 days to review that contract, and make sure there are no negative impacts,” Cockrel said. “I think when you have a federal agency that is charged with monitoring environmental quality for our country, and they say they need to look at this…I think we need to give them the time to do it.”

Detroit’s water department has been under a federal judge’s oversight since 1977, for periodic failures to comply with the Clean Water Act.

Detroit’s former water department head has pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge.

Victor Mercado had been a co-defendant in ex-Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s ongoing public corruption case.

Mercado is one of the four people who, along with the former mayor, his longtime friend Bobby Ferguson, and father Bernard Kilpatrick, made up the alleged “Kilpatrick Enterprise.”

Flickr user Carol VanHook

Mount Clemens in southeastern Michigan has been honored for the best drinking water.

The Macomb Daily says Mount Clemens recently received the nod from the Michigan branch of the American Water Works Association. The competition was conducted by a state engineer, and three judges graded the city's water and others on clarity, taste and odor.

Mount Clemens water comes from Lake St. Clair. The city has its own water department and doesn't rely on Detroit, a major supplier of water to the suburbs.

34 striking Detroit water department workers have been suspended and will be fired, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department confirmed Tuesday.

The workers believed to have initiated the strike were notified by letter from DWSD director Sue McCormick, according to a statement issued by the water department.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Defying a federal judge’s order, Detroit water department workers continued to strike Monday night.

Many rank-and-file workers at Detroit’s wastewater treatment plant walked off the job after AFSCME Local 207 member authorized a strike Sunday.

Workers say the strike is a last stand against what they call attempts to dismantle the city’s water department—and the union.

DETROIT (AP) - Employees of the Detroit-area water system that serves four in 10 Michigan residents have gone on strike to protest plans to eliminate most of their jobs through privatization or other measures.

The union for 950 employees of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department says its members went on strike about 10 a.m. Sunday, setting up a picket line at a wastewater treatment plant in southwest Detroit's Delray neighborhood.

In the last month, the consulting firm EMA Inc. recommended that the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department cut 81 percent of its workforce to save money and streamline operations. The Detroit Free Press reports the water board voted today to move forward with its contract with the company.

Photo courtesty of Birmingham Public Schools

Detroit’s Water and Sewerage Department will slash its workforce in a drastic overhaul set to take place over at least five years.

The move comes as city and department officials move to stem soaring water rates as they deal with rising maintenance and operation costs.

City and department officials say they’ll move to contract out most of the department’s non-core functions.

DETROIT (AP) - The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is getting a new director.

The city of Detroit announced Monday that Sue McCormick has been approved for the post by the Board of Water Commissioners. She's most recently served as Public Services Administrator for Ann Arbor and previously worked for the Lansing Board of Water and Light.

The job has been vacant since mid-2010. McCormick will start work Jan. 1.

McCormick's appointment by Mayor Dave Bing followed a Nov. 4 ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Sean Cox, who is ensuring the department's compliance with Clean Water Act regulations. The ruling reorganized the department and gave the director's position expanded power.

The department supplies water to about 4 million people southeast Michigan.

The next two months will be crucial in determining the long-term future of Detroit’s water and sewerage system.

Detroit owns and operates the municipal system that serves more than three million people in southeast Michigan. It’s been under federal oversight for wastewater violations since 1977.

jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

A computer glitch at the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department led to some customers receiving shut-off notices.

DWSD officials say customers who received the notices "with an address that isn’t theirs" can disregard them.

In a news release, DWSD Public Affairs Manager Mary Sevakis said “We received numerous customer complaints about the notices, and we determined that they referred to one address and one account that had an overdue balance. Customers who received those notices had no connection to that account, and they don’t have to worry about their water being shut off."

The DWSD says shut-off notices have been stopped until the software problem is fixed.

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick faces federal charges that he ran the city’s water department like an organized crime syndicate. Now, one county served by the water department wants some of that money back. From the Detroit Free Press:

Macomb County wants $25.5 million from former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, his former aide, his former contractor friend and former director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department saying they schemed to overcharge the county for a work on a collapsed sewer line in Sterling Heights.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The next director of Detroit’s Water and Sewerage Department might earn a quarter million dollars a year. The Detroit city council voted to increase the job’s salary cap today by nearly  $100 thousand. Councilwoman Sauntell Jenkins  says the pay hike is needed to attract the ‘best and brightest’ candidates to fill the vacant position. 

“So if we want to move forward and doing things right, we have to be willing to do what it takes to attract that talent.  Because we’re in competition with other municipalities.”

Councilwoman JoAnn Watson voted against the salary cap increase.   Watson says,  since the council just approved a 9%  water fee increase, now is not the time to approve a pay hike for the head of the water department.

 “It’s unconscionable to be paying the director of the water department a quarter of a million dollars when citizens can’t afford to pay their basic water bills."

Detroit's mayor and the heads of three neighboring counties recently reached a deal two revamp oversight of the department which serves the needs of 4 million people living in southeast Michigan.

Kate Boicourt / IAN

Environmental advocates are criticizing a plan to scale back pollution controls for the sewer system that serves metro Detroit.

Officials with the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department say population loss and the poor economy have forced them to revisit plans to build a massive underground tunnel along the Rouge River.

The tunnel would store untreated and partially treated sewage so that it wouldn’t get dumped into the river during rainstorms. Officials with DWSD say they still plan to build it, but it would be considerably smaller, and construction would be pushed back about a decade.

But critics say the public should be skeptical. James Clift of the Michigan Environmental Council says DWSD has consistently failed to deliver on promises of a cleaner system.

“Why should we believe you this time? We’ve had decades of permits being issued, and non-compliance from this system.”

Officials with the sewer system say their plan is affordable, and within Detroit’s ability to fund. And they say that will avoid delays tied to the city’s economic recovery.

There is a public hearing on the proposal tonight at 7:00 at U of M-Dearborn.

Joe Ross / Flickr

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says he’s moved the city in the right direction.

But in his State of the City speech, Bing also warned that Governor Snyder’s proposed budget would jeopardize that progress. Snyder attended Tuesday night’s speech at Detroit’s Orchestra Hall.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Members of the Detroit City Council plan to sit down with their attorneys today to see if they can have any say in a new deal for managing the city’s water system. 

Patrick Brosset / Flickr

An agreement between Detroit’s mayor and suburban leaders could end years of wrangling over how the city’s massive water system is run.

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department serves more than 4 million people in Southeast Michigan. It’s been the center of controversy for years. Suburban customers have complained about rate hikes and cost overruns, and they’ve demanded more say over how the department is run. 

The tentative deal seeks to address those issues. And Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner John McCulloch says it could serve as a model for regional cooperation:

"Of all the regional issues that we’re at odds over, this is one that if we can show we can make it work, we can certainly apply the same formula to all the other challenges in the region." 

The plan calls for Oakland, Wayne and Macomb counties to each choose an appointee to the board that oversees the department. A supermajority would be required to approve rates and contracts.

Wayne County Executive Bob Ficano says it’s a good deal for everyone:

"This thing’s been a political football for decades now. And in the past, the parties weren’t able to come together and have a common basis. And plus Mayor Bing is not the previous administration. And I think that went a long way in galvanizing where everybody could work together."

The deal requires the approval of a federal judge. The water department has been under federal oversight since the late 1970s for environmental violations.

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