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Detroit to Shift Water Authority to Suburbs

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Detroit and its surrounding suburbs broke new ground by approving a multi-million dollar deal involving the area’s water authority.

MLive.com reports that the deal will give Detroit suburbs control over 300 miles of water pipelines and five water treatment plants previously controlled by the city. The suburbs will now have control over the water rates and contracting options. In return, they will help out Detroit with its debt relief and will pay it $50 million a year for the water pipe’s lease.

In addition, nearly 900 workers from the city’s Water and Sewerage Department will move to the new Great Lakes Water Authority.

“This is an historic step forward in resolving decades of conflict between Detroit and our suburban neighbors,” said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. “Detroit will have the resources we need to rebuild our city’s crumbling water and sewer pipes. County leaders will have a true voice in running the part of the system that serves the suburbs.”

The deal has been in the works since September, via court-mediated negotiations involving state, county, and local representatives. One of the major issues discussed in the negotiations was the $25 million water debt owed to Detroit by Highland Park, a small metropolitan area with total 2015 revenues projected to be $11.4 million.

The negotiations regarding the debt fell through and the issue will most likely be decided in court.

Of the six representatives who voted on the deal, only one voted against it. Brian Baker, the representative from Macomb County, voted against the measure out of concern that it would raise water rates for Detroit’s suburbs.

“We’re paying more with too little say,” Baker said.

However, Gary Brown, the city’s chief operating officer, disagrees with Baker, stating that the lease agreement is more than fair.

“There was never any intent to shift costs to any community, and I think this lease has done an outstanding job in ensuring every community, including Detroit, will be responsible for collections and pulling their own weight,” Brown said.

One method the workers of the new Great Lakes Water Authority may employ is trenchless pipe repair. Trenchless pipe repair uses cured in pipe placement to replace pipes, causing considerably less damage than conventional methods. Amazingly, the method is relatively unknown. A recent poll conducted by Angie’s List found 78% of people have never heard of trenchless pipe replacement.

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