Great Lakes Water Authority plans to ‘down-size,’ permanently shut off water service to parts of Detroit and other majority-Black cities in Michigan
Master Plan: shutdown of Detroit’s Northeast plant, reduction of water intake and booster sites, decreased infrastructure improvements
Banks get $5.7 B + while water rates, shut-offs, sinkholes increase
#OurWaterOurVote Coalition continues referendum campaign to shut down Great Lakes Water Authority
City Council likely to re-vote rate increases Tues. July 14
#WATERISLIFE #StandUpNow, @WeThePeopleDet, #OurWaterOurVote, @Detroit2700plus, @DETWaterBrigade, #DetroitWater, #Right2Water, #Detroit2Flint, @MCHumanRights, @PeoplesWaterDet, @ACLUofMichigan, #noconsent, #freetheirish5, #neweradetroit, #stopthewatershutoffs, #nowaynopay
By Diane Bukowski
July 8, 2015
DETROIT – Permanent shut-0ffs and decreased water service to sectors of Detroit, the nation’s largest Black majority city, will likely result from a revised Master Plan laid out July 8 by representatives of the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA), and the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD).
They met at the Water Works Park plant on E. Jefferson in Detroit.
The GLWA is slated to take over the DWSD six-county system, under terms of a contract signed by Detroit ‘Mayor’ Mike Duggan June 12, based on the city’s bankruptcy plan. It still needs to complete several requirements before a drop-dead date of Jan. 1, 2015.
Meanwhile, opponents of the GLWA takeover are conducting a city-wide referendum petition campaign known popularly as #OurWaterOurVote to cancel the contract, as allowed under state law. (See link to earlier VOD story at bottom of article, plus links to petition, fliers, and instructions.)
“What we’re talking about here today is a reduction in the size of this system,” Master Plan lead project manager Carl Johnson, of CDM-Smith, Inc., said during the GLWA-DWSD meeting, according to the Detroit News. “It also provides the opportunity to plan for if things change to where we can sell more water.”
Key aspects of the GLWA 20-year plan are:
- A reduction from a $9 billion Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) through 2050 to a $2.9 billion CIP for the next 20 years. The plan says DWSD served 6 million people in 2004, but now has only 4 million customers.
- The elimination of Genesee County, not just Flint, from the system, while holding open the possibility of attracting new customers.
- A reduction in the system’s total daily pumping capacity from 1,760 million gallons to 1,040 million gallons.
- Shutdowns or “repurposing” of treatment plants and booster pumping stations, including Detroit’s Northeast Plant.
- Rescission of planned upgrades for 14 sites, recommended by GLWA contractor Veolia, the world’s largest water privatizer.
- Reduction of water intake sites from five to three.
- Annual spending for water main renewal to drop to $25 million, allowing the replacement of only one percent of the lines per year. This will particularly affect Detroit, which has the oldest infrastructure in the system. Sinkholes are popping up all over the city, caused by the collapse of underlying water mains.
(See GLWA power point presentation of Revised Master Plan at Water-Master-Plan-2015-07-08-BOWC-GLWA-Board-Workshop-Final.compressed).
Plans mapped out during the meeting coincide with those of Detroit Future City, which has published the following chart showing which areas of Detroit are planned to become virtual wastelands.
Bill Davis retired from DWSD as a shift supervisor after 34 years, and is President of the Detroit Active and Retired Employees Association (DAREA). DAREA has appealed the bankruptcy plan to U.S. District Court and is spearheading the coalition of groups conducting the #OurWaterOurVote referendum campaign.
“It appears to me that the GLWA in conjunction with our ‘Mayor’ and Gov. Rick Snyder are deliberately attempting to destabilize the Black community of Detroit,” Davis said.
He said that $537 million in illegal DWSD swaps deals with the banks should have been applied to improving DWSD’s infrastructure, rather than downsizing it. DWSD’s debt to the banks has now increased to $5.7 billion. Earlier, the Board of Water Commissioners deep-sixed a bankruptcy proposal to cut $2.3 billion of DWSD’s total debt. Wall Street ratings agencies strenuously objected to the cut.
“Under the revised Master Plan, pumping facilities are being moved farther out in favor of the outlying areas, taking jobs and economic development with them,” Davis explained.
“Why would they shut down one of the only two freshwater pumping facilities in Detroit, the Northeast plant, instead of considering the Southwest plant in Allen Park, which is only a short ways downriver from the Wastewater Treatment Plant?”
He noted that DWSD remains responsible under the GLWA for the cost of maintaining its own water mains, linked to the rest of the system.
“Detroit’s system is likely to collapse from providing a greater capacity for outlying customers,” he said. “It would only make sense that they contribute to maintaining Detroit’s infrastructure.”
Sinkholes caused by collapsing water mains are already rapidly increasing due to the lack of investment in DSWD’s infrastructure, linked to the high cost of contracts and bank bonds.
Davis noted that Flint’s former Emergency Manager Darnell Earley, appointed by Snyder, took the majority-Black city of Flint out of the DWSD system. The revised Master Plan completely eliminates the whole of Genesee County, where Flint is located, from the system effective Jan. 2017.
“At least half of the ‘$27 million hole’ in the DWSD budget is created by the Flint withdrawal,” Davis went on. “The new Flint system has doled out more contracts to Snyder’s friends, and kickbacks to its operators. The system is so horrible that General Motors plants in Flint had to disconnect from it because the water was corroding their parts, and Flint residents are complaining as well.”
GLWA vice-chair Gary Brown, also Duggan’s Chief Operating Officer (COO), is citing the alleged “$27 million hole” in the DWSD budget in his attack on the June 30 City Council vote of 6-2 against water rate increases.
Brown said the Council’s original “No” vote makes Wall Street nervous. Fifty-one percent of DWSD bondholders must approve the GLWA takeover, and at least one Wall Street ratings agency must guarantee that ratings of GLWA bonds will be no lower than current DWSD ratings.
Along with the editorial boards of the Detroit News and Free Press, the state is also bringing pressure to bear.
State Treasurer Nick Khouri, who heads the state-appointed Financial Review Commission (FRC), said in a letter to the Council the FRC is “statutorily required to provide oversight” of the city’s finances and demanded “the necessary information to demonstrate the city’s plan to comply with the approved budget … or the basis upon which the city will seek an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2016 budget.”
The Council subsequently voted 8-1 to “revisit” the rate increases. It has held two subcommittee meetings this week, and is likely to take a re-vote on the rate increases at its next Committee of the Whole session Tues. July 14.
Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones voted against the rate increases June 30 and is pledging to do so again. However, she along with Duggan signed off on the Detroit bankruptcy Plan of Adjustment, under which the GLWA was created.
DWSD officials have complained for years that water consumption is rapidly decreasing. They refuse to acknowledge that unaffordable water bills, high shut-off rates, and massive tax and mortgage foreclosures have driven out hundreds of thousands of customers from Detroit and other poor cities.
“When you get your water cut off and they say ‘You have to pay $1,700’ and you tell them you don’t have any money, what are you going to do but move?” attorney Alice Jennings told the magazine Mother Jones this month.
The GLWA plans complement massive lay-offs that have already occurred in DWSD, under a recommendation from consultant EMA in 2013 that 81 percent of the system’s workforce be cut.
DWSD workers and retirees have said the cuts resulted in the “near catastrophic” failure of three of the Detroit Wastewater Treatment Plant’s major sewage pumps. That resulted in the massive flooding of metro Detroit freeways and homes in Aug. 2014, as well as the Toledo, Ohio/southeast Michigan water emergency that month, during which 430,000 residents could not use contaminated municipal water to drink, bathe, cook, or wash dishes.
“I anticipate from this new unholy alliance that the people of Detroit will have more flooded basements, streets and freeways,” Davis said.
Also read Mother Jones article, “How Motor City Came Back From the Brink and Left Most Detroiters Behind” at http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/06/motor-city-after-bankruptcy-and-detroiters-left-behind
PREVIOUS VOD STORY ON REFERENDUM TO STOP GLWA:
LINKS FOR COPIES OF PETITION, FLIERS, INSTRUCTIONS:
Click on BLOW THE GREAT LAKES WATER AUTHORITY OUT OF THE WATER 3 for PDF of front of flier; PDF of Instructions for Circulation is at INSTRUCTIONS FOR CIRCULATING (includes contact information to obtain petitions and turn them in.)
The Coalition needs to collect a total of 15,000 valid petition signatures within 45 days of public (newspaper) notice of the contract, meaning it must collect at least twice that to allow for invalid signatures. Signers must be Detroit residents who are registered voters. CIRCULATORS DO NOT HAVE TO BE DETROIT RESIDENTS.
The Coalition’s Facebook Page is at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Coalition-to-Save-Detroits-Water-Sewerage-Department/1443509195955743?fref=ts
PETITIONS WILL ALSO BE AVAILABLE FOR PICK-UP AND TURN-IN AT:
- Meetings of DAREA, 3rd Monday (next July 20) at 11 a.m. at Nandi’s Knowledge Café at 12511 Woodward, Highland Park; 1st Wednesday at 5:30 pm, St. Matthew and St. Joseph Church at Woodward and Holbrook.
- Weekly meetings of Moratorium NOW! Mondays at 7 pm, 5920 Second at Antoinette, s. of W. Grand Blvd.
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