Suburbs up the ante in Detroit water fight

Oakland County leading way towards building own system

DETROIT - Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn orr has had quite a few fights during the city's bankruptcy process, but one of the biggest that's still brewing is the fight over the Detroit water and Sewage Departments.

Oakland County is leading the way towards trying to build its own system. This is a move that has the potential to send huge shock waves through not just Detroit, but the entire region. This idea has been considered before, but it has never gotten very far.

Chief Deputy Oakland County Executive Gerald Poisson says water bills are likely to skyrocket to three or four times what they are now, no matter what happens in this battle.

"You can't fix the roads for free, and everybody is driving on the potholes right now," Poisson said. "Well you can't fix the water and sewage system for free, either. And the unpleasant truth is part of our duty to deliver: here's the truth."

Poisson says Orr is attempting to take money out of the Detroit water and sewer system and put it into the city to save it. And he's offering a 40-year no-cut contract to the counties to make a regional authority. The counties, led by Oakland County, are declining the offer without seeing the financials, knowing full-well that the Detroit system is in disastrous shape.

Oakland County is looking to spend half a million dollars studying whether to put its own straw into Lake St. Clair or one of the six area rivers like the St. Clair to install their own pipes and control their own system.

"It's certainly not going to be inexpensive," Poisson said. "But we absolutely have to do it."

Orr's office released a statement saying "We are not disappointed. Counties should do what they believe is in their best interest, just as the city has done. A regional authority is in everyone's best interest, but time is running short. The city cannot wait for resolution of negotiations if doesn't believe will generate an outcome. Starting a new water and sewer department will be a decade long and expensive process."

But Oakland's idea of constructing its own water system is catching fire in other counties, like Macomb and Western Wayne Counties. This move could be a major problem for Orr and Detroit.

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