(04/17/14) - For nearly 50 years, the city of Flint has depended on water from
the Detroit water system.
Now, it is preparing to transition to a new source.
Thursday afternoon, the intake at the city's water treatment plant began drawing in water from the Flint River.
City leaders say this is an exciting time for Flint, but there are more steps to take before that water can flow to customers.
"This has to be one of the most impressive examples of good public policy," said Darnell Earley, Flint emergency manager.
At around 2 p.m., engineers opened the valves to start taking in Flint River water.
Several days of testing are planned at the treatment plant before water can be sent to Flint homes and businesses. That process includes monitoring by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.
"They will be verifying everything that was on our permit of what we have done. They want to see the system in process. After that, we believe that on Monday we will be positioned to close the valves to Detroit," said Howard Croft, Flint Public Works director.
That ends a relationship that dates back to nearly 50 years.
Flint expects to keep the treatment plant running until the Karegnondi Pipeline from Lake Huron is completed. That project could take up to three years.
"What it means for the residents is that we now have a better mechanism by which to manage our water costs, we have a better mechanism to manage the operations," Earley said.
A better product is promised.
"Historically, when we ran before, we didn't use that softening process, it's not one that required standards, but along with administration and ourselves, we all want to make sure we have a high quality of water putting into the system, so we will be utilizing that softening process," said Daugherty Johnson, utilities administrator.
City officials were asked whether the Flint River can meet the expected demand.
"There's plenty of water in the river, not only the river flowing by, but we also have the reservoir which we store up to seven billion gallons of water continuously so we have that as our reservoir," Johnson said. "Hugely excited, this is an incredible project. A lot of folks put a lot of long hours to get this done, but we are excited be able to get this thing operational."
In Downtown Flint, a meeting of local business owners took place to discuss the switch to Flint River water.
At Café Rhema, a couple of dozen local business owners attended the meeting, where officials addressed the cost, upgrades and maintenance necessary to use the Flint River as the city's primary water source.
Cost and quality of Flint River water were the biggest concerns among business owners attending the meeting.
Another meeting was also held at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. That meeting was for the general public.
The city's public works director and other city and county leaders addressed the concerns that people have.
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