Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A federal task force will help the city of Flint with its drinking water problems.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been criticized for not being more involved in solving Flint’s water crisis.  

William Warby / flickr

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department will lay off about 100 more employees this month.

That’s prompted some workers to sound the alarm. They warn that DWSD is already understaffed, and say laying off more workers could compromise water safety.

“We’ve lost chemists, engineers, instrument technicians … a whole range of people,” says Michael Mulholland, President of AFSCME Local 207, which represents some workers at the wastewater plant. “We’re concerned that what they’re doing is running it on a business model that is inappropriate and irresponsible.”

Courtesy of the office of State Rep. Phil Phelps

A state lawmaker is heading to court to force the city of Flint and a state agency to release documents related to the decision to make the Flint River the city’s drinking water source.

A year and a half ago, the city switched from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to the Flint River.   

Initially, there were complaints about the smell, taste, and appearance of the city’s drinking water. More problems, including high levels of lead in the water in many homes, led Gov. Rick Snyder to address a $12 million plan to return the city to Detroit water, until a new pipeline from Lake Huron is completed next year. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The city of Flint is a small step closer to switching its drinking water back to Detroit.

Tonight the Flint city council unanimously voted to spend $2 million to return to Detroit’s water system.

Appropriately, the vote that is an answer to the prayers of many Flint residents, was punctuated by City Councilman Eric Mays saying “amen,” which drew murmurs of “amen” from the audience.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint officials are still working out the details of returning to Detroit water.

Last week, Gov. Snyder announced a $12 million plan to reconnect Flint to Detroit water.   The state is putting up half the money.  The rest is coming from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the city. 

A year and a half ago, Flint switched its drinking water source from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to the Flint River.  That was meant to be temporary while the new Karegnondi Water Authority pipeline was under construction.

MDEQ Director Dan Wyant talks with the media last Thursday (Oct. 8) when the state announced its support for a move back to Detroit water.
State of Michigan / LiveStream

We should hear more specifics today about what needs to be done to return Flint to Detroit's water system.

Last week, state and local officials announced a plan to spend $12 million to reconnect Flint to Detroit's water system. But it’s not as easy as turning off one tap and turning on another. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A panel of experts is recommending the city of Flint return to Detroit's water system.

As protesters marched outside Flint city hall chanting “lead free water,” inside local, state and national health and water experts agreed that change is needed. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A federal judge has dismissed a request for an injunction to force the city of Flint to return to Detroit's water system.

U.S. District Judge Judge Stephen J. Murphy III turned down the request today.

“The Court is unable to determine the Coalition’s legal theory, or even whether the Court has the power to grant the requested relief,” wrote Murphy in his opinion. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A coalition of pastors and other groups is asking a judge to force the city of Flint to go back to getting its tap water from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. 

Last year, the city shut off the DWSD pipeline and started tapping the Flint River. Since then, there have been numerous problems with the city’s tap water, from being cloudy and smelly to having high levels of e-coli and other chemicals.




Saturday marks the first anniversary of the city of Flint’s switch from Detroit water to the Flint River. It has not been an easy transition.  


“Here’s to Flint," Mayor Dayne Walling said as he raised a glass of water during a small ceremony at Flint’s water plant last April.  


Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Dozens of people braved the arctic cold to march through downtown Flint today. 

Chants of “What do we want? Good water. When do we want it? Now!” echoed through downtown Flint.  

The protesters alternated between waving homemade signs and hunching over to ward off icy winds which knocked the wind chill well below zero.      

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint’s mayor says the governor has some responsibility to ensure that Flint residents have “clean, safe and affordable water.”

Mayor Dayne Walling sent a letter to the governor this week.   

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint's emergency manager says he will not approve a return to Detroit's water system, even though the city's switch to using water from the Flint River has been rife with problems.

Flint ditched its water contract with Detroit, and began using water from the Flint River instead this spring.  Complaints surfaced early on about the water's taste. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

People in Flint may be a bit wary of drinking water from their taps these days.

Several boil water advisories have been issued in the past month, after tests showed potential problems with bacteria.   The latest pair of advisories were lifted last week.

Howard Croft is Flint’s public works director. He says the problems are due to Flint’s aging infrastructure. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department will stop shutting off water service to people with unpaid bills.  

Curtrice Garner is a DWSD spokeswoman.  She insists this is a “pause," not a moratorium, to give people time to pay their overdue water bills.

“What we are going to do is temporarily stop the shutoffs or collections efforts,” says Garner, “However, after the 15 day period, we’ll commerce what we were doing which is shutting off those who are in delinquent status.”

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

After a brief delay, the city of Flint will finally start getting its drinking water exclusively from the Flint River starting this afternoon.

City leaders had hoped to start tapping the Flint River earlier this week. But the state Department of Environmental Quality refused to give its final OK until more work was done on a disinfectant system.

The DEQ has now given its approval.

So this afternoon at 2 p.m., Flint city officials will shut the valve on the intake pipe that brings water to the city from Detroit.

wikimedia commons

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr is looking at potential private operators for the city’s water system.

Orr says the city has been forced to consider leasing the water system to a private operator because talks to create a regional authority with suburban customers broke down.

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. 

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

House committee works on road repair plan

A state House committee is working on a $1.6 billion plan to pay for repair and maintenance on Michigan's roads.

"The plan would result in higher fuel taxes and driver fees. But it would also eliminate the six percent Michigan sales tax on fuel purchases," Rick Pluta reports.

Flint dumps contract with DWSD

"The city of Flint is dumping its contract with the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. Flint emergency manager Ed Kurtz signed a contract yesterday to get the city’s water from a new pipeline that’s being built from Lake Huron to Genesee County...A spokesman says the Detroit water department will have to look at its options  to try and recoup investments made to Flint’s water system," reports Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody.

Michigan addicts become eligible for insurance

Nearly 88,000 drug and alcohol addicts in Michigan will become eligible for insurance starting in 2014.

"Michigan health officials say the state's substance abuse care system will be able to handle the surge of people who will become eligible for alcohol and drug addiction treatment under the federal Affordable Health Care Act," the Associated Press reports.

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:

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.

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.

(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.

(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. 

William Warby / Flickr

Proposed new rates for customers of Detroit’s massive water system have done little to tamp down criticism of the department.

Water bills would go up an average of about nine percent in July, and sewer rates would climb a little more than 11 percent.

Water department officials say lower demand is to blame for much of the increase. But critics are not happy about how the rates are calculated. State Representative Kurt Heise represents western Wayne County:

William Warby / Flickr

Update January 27, 4:18 p.m.:


Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says it’s “ludicrous” to suggest that the city give up control of its massive water system.

Legislation at the state Capitol, and a motion filed this week in federal court, would do just that.

Mayor Bing says he plans to examine the system’s problems, and he plans to fix them.

"I’m not here to defend past practices. I’m not here to defend the management, on a historical basis. My job here today is to look forward."

Bing says people think Detroit is in a weak position, and they’re trying to take advantage of that.


Update January 27th, 8:24 a.m.:

Wayne County Executive Robert A. Ficano has issued the following statement regarding the current situation with the DWSB:

"Today, we met as regional leaders to discuss Mayor Bing's plans for DWSD. It was a very productive meeting, containing very open and pointed discussion of the serious challenges within the department.  I am disappointed in the filing by the Oakland County Drain Commissioner, as this action contradicts the spirit of the discussion earlier today.

I believe in giving the Mayor an opportunity to explore the current operation, correct the mistakes and practices by the previous administration, and allow him to move forward and put in place accountable, transparent operation.

I believe now is not the time to be divisive, but to work cooperatively."

January 26th, 6:10 p.m.:

Oakland County is asking a federal judge to create a regional committee to oversee Detroit’s massive water system. It’s the latest development in a long-running dispute between the city and the suburbs over the scandal-plagued department.

John McCullough is the Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner. He says some $200 million are expected to be spent upgrading the system in the coming year.

"And since 60 percent of these corrections are going to be paid for by suburban customers, it really provides an effective way of the entire region to weigh in as to the proposed solutions and how those costs will be addressed."

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department has been under federal oversight since the late 1970s because of Clean Water Act violations.

Late last year,the Justice Department identified 13 scams in which water department contracts worth tens of millions of dollars were allegedly steered to a friend of Detroit’s former mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick.