Pipeline excavation work in Flint.

Flint, MI– Construction of a secondary water pipeline in Flint, a project that has been years in the works, is expected to be finished later this month. 

During an informational meeting on June 8, Mayor Sheldon Neeley and Director of the Department of Public Works Michael Brown said Flint, “will never again use the Flint River as a source of drinking water.” 

Like the city’s primary water supplier, this new $17-million, seven-mile underground pipeline will also use Lake Huron as its water source.

“It’s like two straws going to the same drink,” Brown said.

Flint’s primary water supplier is the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA). The secondary pipeline will connect to the Genesee County Drain Commission system, which is the supplier for “almost all of our suburban communities” in Genesee County, Brown said. 

GLWA and Genesee County use the same water source and the same water treatment technology. Brown said the secondary pipeline will only be used in the case of an emergency, but that they will keep a small amount of water flowing through it on a regular basis to ensure it stays “fresh” and ready to be used. 

Having a “backup” water supply in Flint is required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the State of Michigan, and the city’s agreement with GLWA. 

Brown said in the case of something catastrophic happening to their primary water source, not having a backup source would leave Flint with only about two to three days’ worth of water reserves, and potentially without access to fresh water for several weeks. 

With this secondary water source, Brown said it would only take about 24 hours or less to begin using if needed. He also said that water quality will be continuously tested at the plant, and at five other sites throughout the city. 

He used a portion of the informational meeting to “dispel myths.” These included:

  • The City of Flint is not joining Karegnondi Water Authority.
  • The City of Flint is not leaving GLWA, and there are still about 27 years left in their contract. 
  • The secondary pipeline is a backup water source, only to be used in dire need. 

There were a few public speakers, however, that challenged the use of the term “backup water source,” since both pipelines use Lake Huron.

“What water source will we use if that goes down?” asked local activist and second ward council candidate Arthur Woodson. 

Eighth Ward Councilman Allan Griggs called in and said that for something to be a backup water source, it would have to come from a separate water source, like groundwater or surface water. 

“It is not a backup water source. It is a redundant water source, or you may call it a secondary water source. But never call it a backup water source,” Griggs said. 

Griggs also said that drinking water can be made “out of anything that’s wet,” including the Flint river. 

Brown did not respond to individual comments, but at the end of the meeting, he reiterated that this source was a “backup” water source, that is “fully supported and approved,” by the EPA, and the State of Michigan. 

There will be more informational meetings to come as the project progresses, Brown said. In the meantime, public comment will continue to be accepted by mail and email here:

Email: waterpubliccomments@cityofflint.com

Mail: City of Flint – DPW
Water Public Comment
1101 S. Saginaw St
Flint, MI  48502

For more information on the status of Flint water, you can see the full Progress Report on Flint Water at www.CityofFlint.com/progressreport.

Amy Diaz is a journalist hailing from St. Petersburg, FL. She has written for multiple local newspapers in her hometown before becoming a full-time reporter for Flint Beat. When she’s not writing you...