FLINT, MI – Talk about thinking outside the box.
In a city widely known for its water problems, 1st Ward councilor Eric Mays wants to turn the tale by spending part of the city’s $ 94.7 in COVID-19 relief funds to build a purification and water purification plant. ‘water bottling, which could send Flint water around the world. .
Mays, who has mentioned the project’s potential on several occasions during discussions about the city’s budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, said he plans to offer to set aside $ 10 million to $ 14 million in funds. relief for the project, many details of which still need to be worked out.
“I believe that with bottled water, there is a market statewide, nationwide and maybe international …” he said on Friday May 28th. “I don’t think (the water crisis) will play out against the town of Flint. . It is a risk that I am prepared to take.
The proposal would require council approval, require assurance that federal funds could be spent on such a project and could be opposed by Mayor Sheldon Neeley.
If it survives these challenges, it may also require negotiations with the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA), which supplies the city with water under a 30-year contract and has agreed to resume payment of the obligations. of Flint for the debt related to the construction of the Karengondi. Water Authority (KWA) pipeline in exchange for GLWA’s access to the city’s share of the city’s raw Lake Huron water.
Flint is not currently connected to the KWA raw water supply, but is building a pipeline that will connect it to KWA water which has been treated by Genesee County. This water connection line, which is about 85% complete, is expected to be used as back-up power for the city and should be mixed with GLWA water supplied by the city to homes and businesses.
The KWA and GLWA get their water from Lake Huron.
Mays said he wanted to tap raw or treated water from the KWA, whichever is more feasible.
Council is due to resume meetings of the finance committee on the budget on Wednesday, June 2 and is expected to consider a number of resolutions to change the budget proposed by Mayor Sheldon Neeley.
A resolution to put money aside for the bottled water plant could be one of them. Council must adopt the budget no later than June 7.
Council President Kate Fields said she did not support Mays’ proposed set-aside and said she did not believe the federal relief funds he wanted to use could be committed because they did not were not included in the budget presented by the mayor.
Fields voted to approve Neeley’s budget as presented, but Mays and other board members rejected the plan in a 5-4 vote earlier this month.
Mays said if the bottled water plant is not included in the budget for the coming fiscal year, it could be in the next fiscal year, when the remaining 50% of the bailout funds American must arrive. The city recently received the first half of its allocation.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury said relief funds could be used by local governments to provide assistance to households, small businesses, nonprofits and industries affected by COVID-19, and to support essential workers. The funds can also be used to invest in infrastructure, including water, sewer and broadband services.
Flint has invested millions of dollars in state and federal funds in its water infrastructure since the water crisis, including a $ 97 million project to replace all lead and galvanized steel water pipes in the city, a $ 7 million chemical power building in its water treatment plant. and the construction of the $ 17 million pipeline that will provide the back-up supply of pre-treated KWA water to Genesee County.
Despite investments and testing showing Flint’s water to be below the federal threshold for lead, some townspeople have remained skeptical about its safety.
The city’s water crisis began after state-appointed emergency managers made a series of decisions that led to the city’s water source changing from pre-treated Lake Huron water to the Flint River in 2014.
The switch to more corrosive and poorly treated river water resulted in the leaching of lead from pipes and plumbing into the city’s drinking water supply.
Mays said the return to Lake Huron water in 2015 means Flint is able to get into the bottled water business even though townspeople are still lining up for water gifts. bottled rather than drinking from the tap.
“The source of water that is consumed from Flint to Detroit (is) from the same source – Lake Huron,” he said. “We have the Great Lakes (so) I don’t think that’s a problem.”
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