How Flint water crisis affects metro Detroit customers

By Rod Meloni - Reporter, CFP ®

DETROIT - There are massive water problems in the city of Flint which matter greatly to metro Detroiters' pocket books.

Flint's drinking water quite literally stinks, said resident Niyyirah Sharriff.

"I've had water that was discolored, foamy, smells like a swimming pool," she said.

Here's why: As a cost-saving move Flint left the Detroit Water and Sewerage system in April 2014. The city now is using its backup water system which draws water out of the Flint River. The river water is being treated in a new system the city is not experienced with while they wait to build a water system which will get its water from Lake Huron.

It's gotten so bad that Sharriff and others across the city are demanding Flint's emergency manager put the city back on the Detroit system.

"Detroit has the water. We need the water. It should be a no-brainer," said Sharriff.

Sharriff said she pays $150 a month for her water -- water she can't drink. She buys bottled water and, she says, she uses rubber gloves when washing dishes because the water from the faucet is that caustic to her skin.

Emergency Manager Jerry Ambrose sent a letter to the state treasurer saying he can't go back to Detroit's system.

"Such a move would increase costs by at least $12 million annually ... for a system with Unrestricted Assets of only $740,745 ... the only recourse within the city's control would be to increase revenues significantly," his letter reads in part. "That would come from raising rates by 30 percent or more. Further, changing the source of the city's water would not necessarily change any of the aesthetics of the water, including odor and discoloration."

Here's why those of us using Detroit's water system care: Flint's departure cost Detroit's water system at least $15 million and the system needs to get that money back. The money will come from customers.

Detroit Water and Sewerage gladly would take back Flint to get the cash. However, there's little hope for that to happen.

Metro Detroiters can expect their water bills to rise while Flint residents are buying bottled water, and we're all surrounded by lakes.


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