Amsterdam News Staff

As Detroit continues to struggle with its myriad of issues, the city’s water remains a major concern for residents.

Reports indicate that some businesses were resorting to makeshift water connections to fire hydrants in downtown Detroit because the city could not afford to make necessary repairs to damaged buildings. A water main break in the downtown area caused the need for the makeshift connection. Water and sewage department officials said the two buildings that need the repairs are too unstable and that securing the buildings with netting and scaffolding would cost the city $100,000.

The owners of one of the buildings are reported to have money in escrow, and early preparation to allow crews to work on the water main is in progress. The fire hydrant has been in use since July.

This week, the city was able to get the money from a lawsuit to begin the repairs. The majority of the city’s water mains are between 70 and 90 years old and are failing at a rapid rate. Detroit residents have experienced more than 5,000 water main breaks in the past three years.

The Wayne County Commission recently approve the creation of a regional water authority.

The Great Lakes Water Authority will be governed by a board consisting of two members appointed by the mayor of Detroit, one each from Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties and one appointed by the governor. Major decisions, such as rate increases, will require approval of five of the six members.

The authority will retain ownership of its 3,000 miles of local pipes and lease its 300 miles of suburban pipes to the communities in which the pipes are located. Five water-treatment facilities would be operated by the authority.

In exchange for the use of its assets, suburban communities will pay the city of Detroit $50 million per year for the next 40 years. This fee will allow Detroit to finance $500 to $800 million in bonds to rebuild the city’s aged water and sewer system.

“By approving the Great Lakes Water Authority, Council has voted to invest in our city’s future,” said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. “We will now have the opportunity to make hundreds of millions of dollars of improvements to our failing water and sewer infrastructure and create jobs for Detroiters in the process. City Council also paved the way for the creation of a true safety net for water customers who are in need of bill payment assistance.”

Duggan and Detroit Water and Sewerage Director Sue F. McCormick, along with a team of community partners, previously announced a 10-point plan that would allow DWS to collect on overdue water bills while making it easier for customers to make payments, enter into payment arrangements and access financial assistance.

The plan includes a waiver of turn-off fees and late payment penalties, restoring service in 48 hours once a bill is paid and an affordable payment plan.